Guests and Accessibility
Rooms, Food, Facilities and Services
San Felice Circeo
Contact Info 

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Holiday Center Avagliano --  Facilities and Surroundings

As much as I'd like to share my impressions in a nice lengthy narrative, I don't have the time to write it and you probably don't have the time to read it either. Therefore, I've confined myself to providing only the most essential info. Furthermore, I've categorized it so you can directly jump to the areas in which you are most interested.

You might have read my start page describing this holiday center as "famous", and perhaps you've wondered, why, if this place is so famous, you never heard of it. The answer to this riddle lies in the center's unique history, which I shall briefly outline here because it is essential in order to understand what the place is all about. It all started more than 20 years ago with the vision of one man: Salvatore Avagliano, then a German language university student to Germany. In order to make his living, he was working at spinal chord injury ward of a hospital in Duisburg, Germany's coal and steel capital. He became aware of the many difficulties people with disabilities were facing. Bearing  in mind the terrific beauty of his Italian home-region, Salvatore felt particularly strongly about the substantial lack of handicap-accessible holiday facilities. And he decided to do something about it. He started out taking people to San Felice with his own car, staying at insufficiently equipped holiday flats, making up the lack of access with his personal committment. While and because Salvatore's commitment has never ceased, the lack of access has more and more disappeared. Today, he and his family run a 40-room entirely accessible holiday center. Many of the people Salvatore took to Italy a generation ago are still his regular guests, even though the holidaymaking opportunities have greatly increased. They've spread the word within Germany's disabled community. The majority of Salvatore's guests are German, he's got  a German wife and the business is partly operated from Germany, where also  most of the marketing is done. So it is no surprise at all that this place is well known in Germany, but poorly known outside of Germany. 

San Felice Circeo's historic city center, seen from one of Salvatore's many terraces
San Felice Circeo's historic city center, seen from one of Salvatore's many terraces

Guests and Accessibility
Since the center was purpose-built to accommodate disabled guests, that's precisely what it does! The 40 rooms are spread out over the main building and several smaller bungalows. The first floor of the main building is accessible via a zig-zag ramp. Gently sloped paths and ramps also give access to the outstandingly beautiful garden and lead to the center's many terraces providing lovely views into all directions as well as ample opportunitiy for sunbathing. Most of the pictures on this page were taken from these accessible paths and terraces. Quite a few people within the wheelchair basketball and table tennis community have been asking me "isn't the place a 'cripple ghetto'?"  While I do find the question itself somewhat irritating, the answer anyway is: NO.   Of course, many guests are disabled, but the place is completely open for everyone, and it's the management's declared policy to integrate as much as possible: handicapped, able-bodied, local, foreign. It should be emphasized that "everyone" includes mentally handicapped and groups of mentally handicapped people. 
Another more reasonable question is the question whether Salvatore's holiday center is also suitable for people from countries other than Germany or Italy. Here, the answer is YES! While the majority of guests are German or Italian and the lingua franca is German, the management is working into the direction of becoming more international. Sabrina, Salvatore's daughter and junior manager, speaks English fluently and many of the German guests will be happy to communicate in English, too.  If you speak neither Italian, nor German, nor English, people will still be very friendly, but you will have  some problems getting your points across. While it isn't necessary to speak Italian at the center, it will be extremely helpful everywhere else. 


The mediterranean coastline at San Felice Circeo. The holiday center has its own - accessible  -  beach section. 

San Felice Circeo
San Felice Circeo is a typical near-big-city resort. Most visitors come from Rome, Naples and Genua, either as holiday home owners or day guests. Accordingly, San Felice's population ondulates  between the extremes of 8,000 in off-season and 40,000 in high-season periods.  Another funny contrast exists between San Felice's old town and its holiday-home areas. The old town is exactly like you'd envision a mediterranean village to look like: elevated position high above the sea, small area, narrow streets, houses looking like extensions of the rocks which they were built on. Very picturesque, but probably not too comfortable to live in. On the contrary, the modern parts of San Felice are not nearly as picturesque, but somewhat more comfortable instead. A lot of holiday homes have been built illegally  -- every couple of years there's an amnesty and then the whole folly  starts all over again. Not necessarily a good base for wise, sustainable city planning and developing. Thank goodness, much of modern San Felice's ugliness is mercifully concealed by wonderful gardens. Except for Monte Circeo, the tiny 550 m high mountain range on whose slopes San Felice rests, the near vicinity is absolutely flat, having been a malaria-infested marsh- and swampland until Mussolini had it drained in the 1930s (one of the Duce's few lasting successes). Quite a few businesses in San Felice have listened to Salvatore's constant requests and put ramps in front of their doors. The "American Bar" across the street from Salvatore's beach even has an accessible bathroom. 
San Felice -- seen from Monte Circeo
This picture, taken from the slopes of Monte Circeo looking down on San Felice's "centro storico" very nicely shows the contrast between the old town and San Felice's newer areas. Picture kindly supplied by Simone Laqua.

Rooms, Food, Facilities and Services
Rooms: If you like kitschy, luxurious hotel rooms with  direct-dial telephone, satellite TV and a jacuzzi-equipped bathroom, I'm sorry to disappoint you: such rooms do not exist at Salvatore's. Simple, but effective, is the motto here. Whereas the rooms are spartanic, they are accessible nonetheless. As a matter of fact, I would have enjoyed a little more comfort, but on the other hand I've had countless problems with first-class hotels charging four times as much as Salvatore and still completely messing up my handicap-room reservation. Be it because they acted out of general negligence, be it because they didn't have any handicap room in the first place, despite assuring me one (!?!!). I'm a lawyer and I can get them for breach of contract, but that won't help me in getting a roll-in shower when I'm longing for one. Look at this example from a hotel in San Giuliano Terme, Tuscany, charging LIT 130,000 ($ 65) per night. BTW $ 65/night  is a normal price for Italy and dangerously cheap for Rome. 
Food: While the rooms do not fully meet hotel standards, the food easily does. At Salvatore's you book half board -- breakfast and dinner. Breakfast is definitely above average Italian standards. Only setback: German coffee (majority vote, yuk!). All the dinners we had tasted very well and were distinctly home-style Italian.  I loved the fresh salads and side-dish vegetables.  During our 2-week-stay we didn't eat outside at all and saved lots of money this way. A bottle of wine and mineral water per evening is included. Regularly there are barbecues and "Italian evenings" with all-you-can-eat buffets at no extra charge.

Facilities and Services: In addition to the already mentioned facilities, the holiday center has an accessible tennis-/basketball court, and, very importantly, an accessible beach section (distance: approximately 2 kms). Visit Salvatore's website for pictures. There are four hoist-equipped minibusses which are used for picking people up at the airport and daytrips to Rome (extra charge) and providing a shuttle service to the beach and into town. Let me emphasize once again, the center is not a hotel. It's more reminiscent of a large bed & breakfast business without fully fitting into any of these categories. There's no 24-hour reception, no uniform-dressed slave will carry your Pina Colada to your lounge seat. But after 2 days and nights at the "Topsy Bar" you will know the entire staff by their first name, and they all will do their very best to make your stay as pleasant as possible while retaining their human dignity and not necessarily tolerating any folly of their guests.  Here's another example for the big-family spirit that's prevailing at Salvatore's: One morning, the entire center was operated by one person only. Office, kitchen, everything. Everyone else was absent -- because they had gotten up at 4 o'clock in the morning and were driving a 20-person group of mentally and physically handicapped people to an audience with the Pope at the Vatican. Now you could have complained because no one was there to pick up your laundry at 10:25 and 33'' when you suddenly felt like having it cleaned, but you also could have appreciated the extra service they were providing to somebody else with a very special need. Your choice. 


San Felice's old town teems with mediterranean atmosphere, especially on evenings

To sum it up quickly and concisely: Extremely reasonable. I paid LIT 85,000 ($40) per night, and this included breakfast and dinner. Another reason for accepting certain shortcomings in the services area, if you actually call these shortcomings. I am not aware of the full range of prices and tariffs. Please contact the center for this.

After so much praise, which drawbacks are there? I've already mentioned the spartanic room furnishing. People who put weight on a full 24/7 hotel service might be disappointed as well. I personally don't consider this a drawback at all, especially since the staff is extremely flexible in taking care of their guests' needs. It's a family business and there simply aren't enough employees to run it like a hotel. This, however, is accurately mirrored in the much, much lower room prices.

Another drawback: The place is not the quietest one, although I'm not sure whether there are quiet places in Italy at all. Don't get me wrong -- it is reasonably quiet.There's no major source of noise, e.g. a major road, in the vicinity. Nevertheless, I wouldn't recommend the center to people, who, like myself sometimes, require absolute silence during their holidays. First of all, as in most newer Italian buildings, the walls are very thin and poorly insulate against noise. For instance, I could hear my dad snore in the neighboring room, and people who walked by my door bouncing their basketball on the floor would have driven me nuts, had I wanted to take a nap or write a novel. Elderly people staying at the center need to be tolerant towards youthful noises. For small kids, however, Salvatore's holiday center will be a wonderful playground with few  do-nots.

At least during off-season periods, the center also accommodates German school-classes, which I'm not too excited about. There was one group of school kids present during my stay. Most of the time, they were quite considerate, but I had to complain once, after a firecracker exploded outside my bathroom when I was taking a shower in the morning. If you use to take an afternoon nap, go to bed before 10 o'clock and sleep very lightly, then you could have reason to be annoyed at times. Then, on the other hand, Italy in general might not be the right holiday country for you! Much of the social life takes place outside and after dark and people are much more tolerant towards noise than people in northern Europe with their culture of domestic secludedness and silence.

  • 40-room holiday center; single, double, group rooms available
  • purpose-built to accommodate disabled guests
  • all kinds of disabilities welcome
  • handicap accessible facilities
  • casual, big-family atmosphere
  • flexible, considerate staff
  • rather a B&B than a hotel
  • not ideal for people requiring daytime and evening silence in their rooms
Facilities & Services
  • large, accessible garden
  • accessible beach
  • tennis/basketball court
  • various group and meeting-rooms
  • several accessible mini-busses
  • special equipment available (shower chairs, hoists etc.)
  • only basic comfort in rooms 
  • no 24/7 services
  • half board
  • breakfast clearly above Italian standards
  • authentic Italian cuisine: very good, vegetable-rich dinners
  • sometimes barbecues /evening buffets
  • no real restaurant business
  • German coffee at breakfast
  • single rooms w/ roll-in shower at ca. LIT 85,000 ($ 40)
  • all meals included
  • extremely reasonable value/money ratio
  • scenic area
  • many possibilities for sightseeing trips
  • San Felice: reasonably-sized very authentic Italian resort w/beautiful old town
  • Rome, Naples within daytrip distance
  • good opportunities for handcycling (flat coastal plain) in vicinity
  • in summer months organized minibus trips to Rome from holiday center
  • no car needed for beach vacation
  • outside of San Felice severe access problems to be expected
  • difficulties for independently-travelling wheelchair users
  • car needed for individual sightseeing trips
  • no hand-control rental cars available in Italy
  • poor Italian driving standars hazardous for wheelchair useres and handcyclers
  • parking problems in cities
  • English widely not spoken
  • Naples: beautifully set city, but suicidal driving conditions

Contact Info
Website Holiday Center Avagliano (German -- English version planned)

Address Germany:
Salvatore Avagliano
Janssenstrasse 20
45147 Essen (Germany)
Tel. +49 201 70 68 95
Fax. +49 201 73 50 68

Address Italy:
Salvatore Avagliano
Holiday Center
04017 San Felice Circeo
Latina (IT)
Tel. +39 773 54 42 54

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