“I think of an albergo diffuso as a novel that tells the story of a culture. Guests are brought into the story temporarily so they can better understand the way of life,” clarifies Giancarlo dall’Ara, creator of the revolutionary concept of hotel hospitality, l’albergo diffuso. (Roughly “decentralized hotel” – ed.)
We truly entered into the culture, the history, today’s daily life in the minuscule medieval Lazio village, Labro, while staying at Palazzo Crispolti albergo diffuso, thanks to the Belgian owner/architect team, Ivan Van Mossevelde and his wife, Anne van Ruymbeke who lovingly transformed the crumbling ruins of this abandoned medieval hilltop village into tasteful, welcoming lodgings for visitors.
At age seventy-five, architect Ivan still has his creative hands on architectural projects both in Italy and in Belgium and so Anne runs their albergo diffuso, Palazzo Crispolti – two suites, two apartments and three double rooms – in two village building, salvaged and meticulously restored according to albergo diffuso guidelines: maximum respect for the environment, preservation of the characteristics of the past structure through salvaging existing buildings, and re-animating the social fabric through involvement of the locals. The albergo diffuso philosophy centers on saving the borghi (small hamlets) from widespread abandonment as young people tend now to move away, opting for urban lifestyles.
And the next morning, the view from our room spotlighted the splendor of this albergo diffuso’s location: a majestic sweep of burnished forested hills rolls right down to the shores of the Lake Piediluco. Knowing Pino was a builder and keenly interested in architectural restoration and preservation, Anne and her husband Ivan joined us for the breakfast Belgian assistant Gaelle had prepared – in the beautifully-restored medieval kitchen. Before Ivan’s arrival, Anne shared with us the stories of their discovery of Labro and the arduous restoration years. Over caffe’, Pino and Ivan talked at length about restoration norms and goals here in Italy, in Belgium and then they guided us through the village, showing us the other buildings in Labro belonging to their albergo diffuso.
Our tour ended on the balcony of the apartment called “La Casa dell’Architetto,” as it had once been their own home. Ivan dubbed the balcony, “the balcony with the most beautiful view in all of central Italy.” He might be right.