Words by Carla Passino

An ancient stone village wrapped by thick walls perches high on a hilltop in the Abruzzo mountain. Watched over by a soaring tower, the intricate maze of narrow alleys, cobbled squares and portico-lined streets that makes up Santo Stefano di Sessanio is an enduring testament to the reach and power of the Medici family, of which this Abruzzese villace once was a stronghold (despite being some 400 kilometres from Florence).
But the wool economy that had attracted the Medici to the area collapsed over the centuries and the once thriving village fell into disrepair. Santo Stefano lost most of his inhabitants to migration, and many of its buildings to time and the elements.
Until a few years ago, when a Swedish Italian entrepreneur, Daniele Elow Kihlgren, bought several houses, carried out a painstaking, architecturally accurate restoration, and turned the village into an Albergo Diffuso, an extended hotel with rooms laid across many village buildings.
Since then, Santo Stefano’s narrow carved stone archways, meandering lanes and medieval stone houses enchanted visitors from around the world. Now, however, incomers have a chance to buy their very own piece of Santo Stefano—boutique developers Realitalia have teamed up with Kihlgren’s restoration company, Sextantio, to sell restored homes across the village.
The homes for sale, which are all ancient, will be meticulously restored in the same way as Sextantio’s Albergo Diffuso was—their original architecture will be revived using authentic reclaimed materials. Original stone fireplaces, chimneys, windows, doors and ovens will be the backdrop for a genuinely authentic décor—antique wooden furniture in sober Abruzzo mountain style, handwoven, embroidered bedsheets, wool mattresses—that recaptures the houses’ original period atmosphere.
Obviously, the developers faced the problem of adapting the buildings to contemporary needs. This was solved by unobtrusively blending in modern, eco-friendly technology. Heating is underfloor, air conditioning is well hidden, Internet and intranet access are invisibly present, electricity is provided through low tension distribution—and everything is governed through a remote controller, avoiding unsightly (and unauthentic) switches.
Thanks to the Albergo Diffuso, Santo Stefano has shops, a restaurant, a business centre and a caretaker service. Owners can also take advantage of the Albergo Diffuso’s management services, which include concierge and assistance, as well as the opportunity of renting their home through the Albergo’s online rental service.
“This is an extremely challenging and satisfying project”, says Luca Catalano of developers Realitalia. “Together with Sextantio, we are working to produce outstanding homes, coupled with an implemented and proven property management system.”
Prices start from €200,000 for Casa sotto la Chiesa, a one bedroom home with fireplace, country views and vaulted ceiling, and go up to €395,000 for the spectacular Casa sotto la Torre, a two-bedroom home with vaulted ceilings, panoramic rural views and a bath tub in the main bedroom.
Santo Stefano di Sessanio is about one hour and 20 minutes from Pescara’s international airport, and just under two hours’ drive from Rome’s international airports, Fiumicino and Ciampino.
For more information contact Realitalia, +44 0870 890 9936, www. realitalia.co.uk.