AReturning from trips to Europe, many of us hope that our holidays will do good rather than harm. But finding eco-friendly and affordable getaways can be tricky, and that’s where, for Italy (as well as parts of Austria, Germany and Slovenia) Ecobnb – a network of tourism businesses that respect both the natural world and local communities – comes into play. friendly hosts in a beautiful setting.
SextantioSanto Stefano di Sessanio, southern Abruzzo
Many hotels claim to take guests back in time, but few do it as sincerely as this one albergo diffuso (a “scattered hotel” in a historic setting) at 1,250 meters above sea level in the Gran Sasso National Park. Its rooms occupy several medieval buildings in the walled village of Santo Stefano di Sessanio — and where other hotels indulge in the odd carpet or paint job, Sextantio gives only a minimal nod to modernity.
Small windows, uneven floors, and smoke-blackened walls give a real sense of a long-gone world, as you sip wine on an ancient settlement, then climb into a high wooden bed with a woolen mattress. and beautiful hand-woven blankets. The bathroom is of course anachronistic, but the handmade vegan soap, glass shampoo bottles, and brown paper trash bags are both modern and retro.
The hotel restaurant maintains the theme, with handcrafted tableware and seasonal local dishes. Days can be filled with picnics, e-bike tours, cooking classes, truffle hunting, wolf hunting, canoeing or snowshoeing, followed by a massage.
Double from €80Guest rooms
The Aperegina, Corvara, Abruzzo
For dedication to sustainability, you’d be hard-pressed to beat the organic agriturismo of Marino and Elide Recchini an hour from Pescara. The closures have hardly affected them, as they live almost self-sufficiently on their six hectares, raising pigs, chickens and bees, and growing vegetables, herbs, fruit and their own wheat for pasta.
They now happily welcome guests to share their ‘good living’ in four quirky en-suite bedrooms, most in individual buildings: one has a heart-shaped window to take in the views as far as the Adriatic 48 kilometers away; there’s also a treehouse and one with a stargazing window. Every day you can set off for lakes, canoe trips or mountain walks, with a picnic lunch and a bespoke hand-drawn map by Marino, returning for a drink around the fire pit before everyone else eat a dinner of nearly zero km produce on a long outdoor table. Only the cheese – delicious fresh braided mozzarella during our visit – is bought on site, from a nearby dairy.
double of 130 € in half board
Rise above the seashore
Borgo sul MareSilvi, Abruzzo
The coastal road north of the town of Pescara is solid apartment buildings and hotels for about 10 miles, but perched on an outcrop 330 meters above is the historic village of Silvi, with a view stunning sea views from most angles. You could almost call it the balcony of the Adriatic.
A period building in its main square — once the home of the owner’s grandparents — is now this five-room B&B. The high-ceilinged bedrooms are on the first floor and the downstairs breakfast room becomes a casual independently run restaurant at night. Unusually for an Italian beach area, this is a plastic-free establishment and has a strict local sourcing policy for breakfast meats, cheeses, eggs, breads, and fruit.
You wake up in the morning to the sound of church bells and chatter from the cafes in the square, before heading to the beach via the steep Sentiero dello Splendore path to the sandy shore. After the ascent there may be time for an ice cream or an aperol spritz from Gelatiamo in the square.
Among the many restaurant options in the village, Ristorante Vecchia Silvi cheerful and good value, serving pizza at the bottom of its steep garden, and local pasta, fish and meat specialties on a terrace above.
Double from €60 Guest rooms
Off the grid but on the ball
Farmhouse La Curtissouth of the Marches
Architects Vincenzina and Angelo created this agriturismo on the family farm in Vincenzina using local materials and environmentally friendly processes, with solar panels and a biomass boiler.
“The only thing that comes over a wire from the outside is the Internet,” they say. The farming (fruits, olives, vines – all organic) is done by Vincenzina’s parents, leaving her to focus on being a charming hostess, as well as a generous and accomplished cook.
Guests staying in all three apartments can choose to cook in the open-air kitchen or partake in a communal home-cooked dinner each evening. It is 21 km from the coast and the same distance from the Sibillini Mountains National Park, but there is also plenty to do and see nearby, such as the impressive hill towns of Montalto delle Marche, a papal capital in the 16th century, and Montedinove. If even that’s too much, the Aso River runs through the farm, and a small pebble beach under the trees is perfect for a swim and an afternoon siesta.
Apartment for two from €65
Vegan with a view
coronacinaChienti Valley, Marche
Five friendly little dogs rush to greet you as you drive through this farmhouse north of the Monti Sibillini, with owner Melania in their wake. Veganism is a growing trend in the land of mozzarella and prosciutto, with more than 1.5 million Italians choosing plant-based foods, and Coroncina caters for that.
The four guest rooms have been renovated with natural paints, cork and linseed oil, with photovoltaic and solar thermal panels. The fanciest is Le Botte, created from three huge wine barrels – two for the bedroom, one for the shower room – on a steep hill with its own terrace. The land falls below overlooking a valley of orchards and olive trees, where birds of prey silently swoop down on their next meal.
Our own dinner is served on a veranda by the pool treated with Himalayan salt. The best things are those that don’t try to be anything else: bread with four kinds of olive oil, a succulent broad bean soup, smoked fusilli with cashew nuts and tomatoes. Hay, olive oil and mountain herbs are used in the treatments at the basement wellness centre.
double of 120€ bed and breakfast
Sea and mountain
Acanto country houseSirolo, Le Marche
There is a graceful and expansive atmosphere in this B&B built in white stone on a south-facing hill. Renovated about ten years ago with recycled and natural materials, it benefits from cork insulation, energy from solar panels and heat pumps, and a saltwater swimming pool in large gardens filled with aromatic plants – including hundreds of rosemary bushes.
The seven bedrooms are spacious, most with panoramic views and all furnished with antiques or old family pieces. Acanto is in the Monte Conero Natural Park, one of the most beautiful areas of this Adriatic coast, with white pebble beaches backed by woods and limestone cliffs below the 572m mountain. Paths lead down to the sea from the medieval village of Sirolo, and the B&B offers a shuttle to San Michele beach further north. There are bikes to borrow, stables next door, and the Pecorara Circular Hiking Trail (three hours) passes the front door.
Double from €120 guest rooms, ecobnb.com
Girolomoninorth of the Marches
A high plateau east of Urbino is home to Italy’s first organic cooperative, established in the 1970s with dairy cows and fields of wheat. As unemployment and depopulation set in in the 1980s, the late Gino Girolomoni found a way to bring these highlands back to life, with a factory turning this local wheat into some of Italy’s first organic pasta.
Powered by wind, solar and water power, it employs 60 people from the surrounding villages. You can stay in the Locanda, with a restaurant and swimming pool, or 500 meters up the hill in a restored monastery (pictured) dating from 1380. You can visit the factory, hike on marked trails at nearby or enjoy the glories of the Renaissance and the student streets. of Urbino, birthplace of Raphael, eight miles away.
double of 50 €