Lake Como in the Lombardy Region of Italy

“The charm of Varenna reveals itself and leaves us the wonder, the astonishment, the memory.” 

Villa Monastero

The tiny town of Varenna embraces pastel-colored houses, “delicate layers of
human history,” stacked against 
the mountainside,  the restful views of Lake
Como calming the soul. Stroll along the passerella from one tiny harbor to
another, under trailing wisteria and palm trees nodding gently in lakeside
breezes. Stop in a small cafe to sample the region’s famous risotto or to savor
yet another cappuccino. 

Stay in private room in the grand Villa Monastero, set regally within lovely
botanical gardens and enjoy the allure of aristocratic times, full of the romance
of old world elegance. Formerly a Cistercian female convent, Villa Monastero
eventually became the home for Italy’s famous physicist, Enrico Fermi and
now provides a peaceful and spacious venue for international cultural studies.

 _DSC1002View from a terrace at Villa Monastero
photo by Linda Prospero


Former Retreats…

The Abruzzo Region of Italy

This is the center of Italy, heart, cradle, home of ancient races, oldest man, older than history.
Here one sees the earth as it was after the last sigh of Creation, one sees it as if it were still becoming
…and this seeing, which is a kind of sharing in the act of creation, inspires awe not unalloyed
by dread.  The mountains seem still to be groaning, pushing themselves up toward the sky…
                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Barbara Grizzuti Harrison       
                                                                                                                                            photo: Dayle Fergusson

Santo Stefano di Sessanio

The two hour drive east from Rome to Santo Stefano di Sessanio passes through multiple tunnels and past dramatically steep mountains that seem to rise from fluidly sloping inclines. Sometimes called the “green heart of the Mediterranean” Abruzzo’s rugged landscape is home to stalwart people who have lived off the land for centuries. Located at 4,100 feet, the stone hill town of Santo Stefano di Sessanio appears on arrival to be almost abandoned.

And it nearly was, until about 2004 when an Italian-Swede, Daniele Kihlgren, discovered the 12th century hill town on a motorbike trip through the Apennines. With a focus on restoration and preservation, Kihlgren subsequently acquired nearly a third of the houses scattered throughout the burgh, thus establishing a boutique hotel, Sextantio Albergo Diffuso where hotel guests live among local residents in rooms that combine the rustic and elegant. Every room in the award-winning hotel retains a medieval presence and emanates a sense of its original inhabitants. In 2007 Santo Stefano was honored with a Europa Nostra Award as a Laureate of the 2007 European Union Prize for Cultural Heritage for its Conservation of Cultural Landscapes. TripAdvisor awarded Sextantio Albergo Diffuso a 2012 Certificate of Excellence. 


Sextantio Albergo Diffuso

LUXURIATE for six nights in a private and comfortable room, its restoration visibly guided by Kihlgren’s deep-felt appreciation for Abruzzo’s history. You will sleep in a mattress filled with the wool of local sheep and enjoy hand-loomed linen sheets and blankets woven locally on an ancient loom. Warmth comes from wood-burning fireplaces or radiant heat set under stone floors. Modern Italian design is honored by Philippe Starck-appointed bathroom fixtures set in elegant juxtaposition to rustic antique furnishings. Candles will light your way.

Sextantio, June 2013

Sextantio, June 2013


La Cucina Abruzzese

Abruzzo is among the most mountainous regions in Italy and home to some of the most interesting cooking in the country.
Gastronomically, Abruzzo is nearly heaven.             Mario Batali

photos: Linda Prospero and Dayle Fergusson

ENJOY  daily breakfast in the hotel’s Cantinone—a sumptuous selection of sweets, savory dishes, locally made cheeses, salamis, frittate, coffee and juices. Lunch is on your own at small delis or trattorie in town. Enjoy dinner each evening, Italian time, around 8 p.m., some nights in the hotel’s candle-lit dining room and other evenings in support of local family restaurants where the owners cook and generously host. The locally-sourced food and wines are always delicious and plentiful.

photos: Linda Prospero and Dayle Fergusson

Click on any photo to read about Santo Stefano
and Italy, in Other Words in international news   

Imagemap alt In Abruzzi The Town That Became a Hotel An Italian Affair...Food for the Writer's Soul Undiscovered Italy

Kind Words 

Carol Sherrill, Danville, California, 2013
Set in medieval Santo, the eternal mood of stone streets and walls effectively separates one from ordinary concerns and encourages focus on the purpose. And…after the serious work of each session, we filled the rest of the day enjoying the beauty and culture of Abruzzo, the joy laughter of developing friendships, delightful regional food and—it should be said, a little wine.

Dan Martin, Kansas City, MO, 2012
The place is enchanting. It was a beautiful and inspiring location, with warm and generous hosts. I found the room great for sleeping; I loved the library for writing. The gatherings of the group around food were lively and engaging. The groups certainly came together, as people, travelers, writers. The excursions were stimulating and very nicely connected to place.

Arthur Darby, Calgary, Alberta, CA, 2012
Santo Stefano is a beautiful, charming spot and I loved it.

Julie Ramos, West Nyack, NY, 2011
Unusual, authentic, tragic, silent, Santo Stefano: great ambiance, some minor inconveniences, but hey, the place is 1,000 years old. I had what I needed. The views are stunning, unforgettable.

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