Daniele Kihlgren: a man’s mission to save the South of Italy

An architect gone philantropist gone hotel entrepreneur. A wealthy man with a tumultuous past who finds peace and purpose helping a small, abandoned village, to come back to life(drugs addictions and the untimely death of his brother Edoardo). This is Daniele Kihlgren, a genius now, but at the beginning of his adventure “they thought I was an idiot”. At the of the 90’s, Kihlgren got lost while driving his motorbike in the mountains of Parco Nazionale d’Abruzzo. When, maybe a stroke of luck or just serendipity,  he saw Santo Stefano di Sessanio, a medieval village perched on the top of an hill, “it was a dreamlike vision”. Eventually the village was more a ghost than a dream: the number of inhabitants had dropped from 3000 to 70 in just a century, decrepit houses, having their owners emigrated to Canada or New Jersey, searching for easier, better lives. A human bleeding. It was like a spell was cast upon it. Despite this, Kihlgren fell in love with the place and started buying houses, one after another.

intervista_daniele-kihlgren
Inserisci una didascalia

He decided to create a unique cultural and tourist project: restore life to that place making it a “widespread hotel”. He began to restructure by using a completely conservative project, which preserves the inner pathos and the past life of those places. Only original materials such as stone, wood and terracotta are used, he called secondhand dealers and property men to recover the original furnishings and an anthropologist to interview the elderlies of the town. From these oral histories, old recipes and weaving methods were retrieved that are used today to sew the hotel’s pillowcases and linens.image  The result is Sextantio: 27 rooms, distributed in 13 different buildings (the reception is in a former stable), Philip Starck  fixtures in the bathrooms, beauty products and liqueurs produced in workshops that reopened in the town thanks to Kihlgren. The cultural project has resurrected Santo Stefano: 25 people were hired for the project, 300 others in related industries, the reception facilities in the town are now 23 (all obtained from the recovery of pre-existing buildings, without building a single square meter). The real estate value of the area, 50 Euros per square metre when it was bought by Kihlgren, now is between 4000 and 7000. The human bleeding has stopped: if once people would go down to the valley in search of opportunities, now the trail has reversed. Kihlgren’s model has revealed to be so valuable, as to be replicated in the Civita of Matera (european capital of culture for 2019) the oldest part of the Sassi (the Sassi are caves, where peasants lived with their animals up to the 50s, at the time a symbol of a marginal, poor and degraded humanity, now a big touristic hit). “But I have studied and lived in Naples, my dream was to be a neomelodic singer”. Over the years Sextantio  has hosted royal families and Hollywood stars and its streets, once empty and lonely, are now filled with voices and people from all over the world. “I broke the spell”and Danny smiles.

To arrange your visit in Santo Stefano or Matera, http://www.sextantio.it

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