lunedì 2 luglio 2018

The concept of the Albergo Diffuso offers hope

I spoke at length to Giancarlo Dall’Ara, the President of the Association and a man entirely devoted to re animating these villages. His greatest successes are those where life has returned, jobs have been saved or created, and the Italian identity given fresh dignity. “It is impossible for dishonesty and greed to take hold in alberghi diffusi”, he told me. A commitment to the community is built into the fabric of the idea, just as the houses make up the villages. They are inseparable.
Giancarlo has woven all these alberghi into one association and has encouraged local regions to create a regulatory umbrella. He sees the history of Italy as a world of interlocking stories. The alberghi are a way of making visitors a part of that story and of keeping it being told. If you are sleeping in the restored cave of a Matera house, or lunching on a tiny stone terrace perched over the valley of Labro, you have to duck to avoid the character and the history. The families who lived here, suffered, prospered, perhaps emigrated, have not been, and cannot be, lightly dismissed.
We live in a time when tourism as an industry is having to take a hard look at itself. All over Europe cities are fighting back against what they see as invasive waves of visitors, often brought in by the modern landing craft that are cruise ships. Rents are driven up beyond the means of locals, shops switch from selling food to selling souvenirs, piazzas and plazas are filled with insensitive aliens rather than friends. The concept of the Albergo Diffuso offers hope: a more sensitive, scattered, integrated form of tourism.

Revitalised villages might well drive bigger, self-sufficient communities, helping to return to many a lost sense of belonging and thus a care and responsibility for their homes and environment. The Albergo Diffuso movement began nobly, when the Friuli area was devastated by earthquakes. It was a way of bringing life back and recreating damaged communities. With a little luck and a lot of hard work, it might just inspire something similar all over the world. Giancarlo, for one, is up for the challenge.

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