If you veer off the tourist path in Italy just a bit, you’ll be rewarded with living in ancient history. You could eat medieval dishes and sleep in a cave that housed a local family over 1000 years ago. The cave is now outfitted with modern luxuries, of course, but a cave itself is as original as it gets. In a different direction, you can experience life in a hillside fortified medieval village nestled within one of Italy’s stunning national parks.
There’s always more to love about Italy. But this time around take part in the rich history of how Italians lived and flourished in the ancient past by staying in the Sextantio hotels.
Italy like you’ve never seen it before
Both of these places are forgotten cities. Left abandoned and crumbling. When you tell your friends you’re going to Italy to visit the cities of Sassi de Matera and Santo Stefano they’re going to look at you sideways and then ask if you’re going to Rome.
Of course, we’ll always love Rome, but these two unheard of places harbor something incredibly unique. The forgotten cities hold stories that are so worth hearing, feeling, and exploring.
If the walls could talk, they’d tell us grand stories of who used to live there, the churches that stood next door serving the farming community, or even of the farm animals that lived inside during the winter – the same walls that will host you during your time in forgotten Italy.
What are the Sextantio hotels, and where are these towns I’ve never heard of?
We’ve all enjoyed the luxury of a brand new hotel with an infinity pool, bathtub the size of your entire bathroom at home and sheets that make you wonder if the city you’re in really need to be explored. Both of the Sextantio hotels are not new. In fact, both are ancient and crumbling. Which is exactly why we love them. Here’s why we think your Italy itinerary needs to include towns you’ve never heard of before.
Sextantio Le Grotte della Civita in the Sassi di Matera
Sassi di Matera is in Southern Italy, just about where the heel breaks away from the foot. Ancient cave dwellings and incredibly unique landscape is what meets you here. In 1993 it became a UNESCO World Heritage Site because it’s so well preserved. The village is made up of hundreds of caves that were used as homes, churches, and palaces. The earliest records we have show that people lived in this beautiful cave village in the stone and bronze ages, so they’re thought to be some of Italy’s first inhabitants.
Staying in the Sextantio Le Grotte della Civita is like going back in time, but with modern comforts, because cave life was a little rougher that we like to vacation.
Here’s what awaits you: the hotel is 18 luxury caves (sassi). Cave 13, a favorite, is the only room that spans numerous caves, separating bedroom from living room. Candles certainly make a bath romantic, but how about a fireplace next to the bathtub? We agree – this is no standard hotel. Sleeping in a sassi that was probably inhabited back in 7000 BC is an unforgettable experience.
Enjoy all the Sassi di Matera has to offer
Aside from the splendor of sleeping in your very own sassi room, Sextantio has incredible experiences to see what the Sassi di Matera area is all about. Romantic candlelit dinners at the XIII Century Rock Hewn Church with classical music and an open fire are the perfect way to spend a romantic evening. To make dinner even more special, you can take part in a cooking class to learn the art of handmade pasta. So even though when you get home, your friends will have no idea where you’ve been in Italy, you can impress them with your new pasta-making skills.
During the day, head out on a guided cycling tour of the area or take off on foot for a hiking tour of the town that takes place during the day as well as after sunset for an extra unique view of town. One of the best parts of either of these activities is the guide. Zero struggling with maps or wondering if you’ve cycled into the next town over. Vacation should be stress-free and both of these activities are the perfect recipe of adventure while feeling completely taken care of. Italian exploration doesn’t get any better than this.
The Sextantio Le Grotte della Civita is a harmony between preserving ancient history while keeping it alive and thriving. Not totally sold yet? Check out this video to see exactly why we love it here.
Sextantio Albergo Diffuso in Santo Stefano di Sessanio
The Appenine mountains in the Gran Sasso e Monti della Laga National Park is the second Sextantio hotel. The Albergo Diffuso brings to life the forgotten village of Abruzzo, two hours northeast of Rome. “Albergo diffuso” means scattered hotel, so of course it’s exactly that, plus now you know more Italian than you did a second ago!
Twenty-nine luxurious rooms, a tea room, a restaurant serving medieval recipes, and a wine cellar are all on property here. The hotel sticks so close to its historic roots that it’s a bit like living in a fully-functioning museum. Have you ever eaten a meal made from a medieval recipe? We hadn’t either, but it’s these small details that make this hotel so memorable. Not to worry though, because the hotel has modern luxuries instead of medieval living conditions. Under-floor heating and light switches are in each room – big upgrades from when the first people lived within these walls.
How to spend the perfect day in Santo Stefano di Sessanio
The list of activities available both in your hotel and in the surrounding areas is so tempting that you’re not going to get to any of the Netflix shows you planned to watch on vacation. That’s what the plane ride home is for. Instead, you’re going hunting for black truffles with a local expert truffle hunter and his dogs. Yep, hiking, foraging for delicious mushrooms, and hanging out with cute dogs makes for a great day. If you’re feeling like a day on the water would do you some good, canoeing in a crystal clear lake in the mountains will leave feeling serene. If you prefer horseback riding as your mode of transportation, the Sextantio has you covered.
Of course when in Italy, you must visit the local vineyard, do some wine tasting with local cheese pairing. Take a few bottles back to the hotel with you for a great night in, or take some back home for a fun happy hour with your favorite wine from Italy and reminisce. Back at the Albergo Diffuso, take part in one of their cooking classes. Be it bread, pastries, or preparing dinner with the chef. All of those classes are sure to be a fun cooking lesson, slight language lesson and an unforgettable experience that you can take home.
Check out this video to see what we mean when we say this is a must-visit destination on your Italian adventure.