Known as Sextantio in Roman times, this atmospheric hilltop village has a commanding position overlooking two valleys. Although the 2009 earthquake that struck L'Aquila damaged a number of buildings in Santo Stefano, including the iconic 18m-high watchtower (which completely collapsed), a stroll through the centro storico (historic centre) reveals why the village is regarded as one of the borghi più belli d'Italia (one of the most beautiful towns in Italy).
The town flourished in the 16th century under the rule of the Medici family, and the Medici coat of arms can still be seen on the entrance portal to the main piazza. Subsequently left behind by history, Santo Stefano was untouched by development, making it a perfect place for radical eco-restorer Daniele Kihlgren to carry out his work. He invested in the town, following an agreement with the authorities that no unsympathetic and ugly development would mar his vision.