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October 08, 2013

Restored Village Retreats

These 10 luxe getaways, located in once-downtrodden towns, make a strong case for small-town living.

In travel circles, small-town life has taken on a whole new meaning. In the last few years, particularly across Europe, a number of once-deserted villages have been painstakingly restored for discerning guests, bringing many near-extinct communities back to life.

Over the course of the 20th century, as jobs moved to cities, hamlet populations dwindled, and already weathered buildings gradually succumbed to neglect and ruin. The same outward movement created a new generation of overwrought city-dwellers longing for more space, a slower pace and a return to—if only temporarily—a simpler lifestyle.

But to recognize the potential in and take on the daunting task of renovating an entire village takes both vision and courage. Ludovic Orts, cofounder of the Montagne Alternative project in the Valais Alpine region of Switzerland, has both, as does Larissa Lazzari, who took on rebuilding a fishing village in Cape Verde, which had been abandoned during a severe drought. Although located in completely different environments, both undertakings prioritized an authentic renovation process using local craftsmen and materials.

We found a clutch of other village properties that underwent painstaking overhauls. Borgo San Felice in Tuscany revived a fortified medieval settlement with its restored stone cottages. And nestled between the natural park and the beaches of the Vicentine coast in south-central Portugal, the rejuvenated village of Aldeia da Pedralva stands proudly.