Italy: Innovative 'Zoo-anthropological' dog shelter

Artist impression Artist impression Courtesy of Daniele Kihlgren

Italian entrepreneur, philanthropist and famous hotelier Daniele Kihlgren, known worldwide for saving Italy’s forgotten villages from going under, is now turning his hand to a different kind of saving: Dogs in shelters. Kihlgren, whose unique Diffuso Sextantio Hotel concept has for years been attracting ‘slow’ travellers, film stars and crews as well as royalty from around the world, is also known for rescueing dogs. The new type of centre has been specifically designed to include medical facilities as well as a special public botanical garden. The different needs of various dog breeds will be taken into account, as will be the mental health and wellbeing of all the dogs. All in all, the centre has been designed to give dogs a better chance of being rehomed.


Kihlgren calls his new type of dog shelter a "zoo-anthropological centre." It has been designed with the Italian philosopher and ethologist Roberto Marchesini. Marchesini, who has a veterinary, biological, and philosophical background, is known for rethinking the relationship between humans and animals. He is also known for types of approaches that help us understand animals better.

Kihlgren is proposing for his new type of dog centre to be located in the Abruzzo region, which is also the location of his Sextantio Albergo Diffuso, the first of his innovative hotel concept

Much more than just housing the dogs, in the new centre there will be a focus on the mental and physical health and wellbeing of the animals.

Dog kennels are often overcrowded and can provide an unnatural and stressful place to live for dogs, who often show anxious behaviour. Due to a national law, Italy has an even larger problem with overcrowded animal shelters, and Kihlgren hopes in this way to come up with a sustaining solution.

The design allows for a section of medical facilities, as well as a variety of shelters for various kinds of dogs that have different needs. There will also be areas where potential dog owners can spend some time with a dog to get to know them, and the centre will be open to the public, who can enjoy a stroll in a biodiversity-friendly botanical public garden.

"A specific competence in the behavioural, cognitive and emotional aspects of dogs has finalised the project to maximise the well-being of the animal during its stay in the facility," Kihlgren told Breaking Perspectives.

With this approach, it is intended for the animals to not only survive whilst they are in the shelter, but also thrive and have a better chance of being re-homed. 

“A specific competence in the behavioural, cognitive and emotional aspects of dogs has finalised the project to maximise the well-being of the animal during its stay in the facility."


Views of Santo Stefano di Sessanio
Sextantio Albergo Diffuso
Daniele Kihlgren


The mountainous medieval village of Santo Stefano di Sessanio in the Abruzzo region, in the Province of L'Aquila nearby Rome, was the first of Italy’s post-war abandoned ghost towns to be rescued by Kihlgren for his Albergo Diffuso project. By using an inventive way that would both support and utilise the knowledge and work of local communities and historians, the by now world-famous hotelier has managed to provide visitors with a unique stay since. It offers ‘slow travellers’ and visitors an opportunity to go back into time and enjoy the village’s beautiful scenery and breathtaking views.

Those that stay can merge with locals in its mountain-adjourned picturesque little town square, or in a quaint little bar where local liquors can be savoured. The bed spreads in their rooms are made by local traditional weaving methods, and the dishes cooked by chefs in the local restaurant are inspired by local cooking traditions. The rooms, scattered around the village, are all unique. For example, one room was once the location for local women and children to sit together to tell each other stories. So, where they once sat, huddled together next to their livestock to keep warm, visitors can now spend time too, and enjoy their holiday.


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