Monday, November 6, 2017

Staying at an agriturismo can show you Italy up close and at its finest

If you are traveling and want to stay overnight in an Italian city, you stay in a hotel, or maybe a bed and breakfast. But for a country vacation, an agriturismo is often the best choice. Staying at an agriturismo combines the best of Italy’s spectacular rural beauty with hospitality, luxury and value.

The word agriturismo combines ‟agriculture” and ‟tourism” and is a style of vacationing in farm house resorts that was written into Italian law in 1985. An agriturismo is an independently owned farm that the owners have converted into partial use to accommodate tourists. That means that the owners are primarily farmers, and your room is in the farmer’s house or in an old outbuilding converted into guest rooms. With space outside to roam, an agriturismo vacation is suitable for an entire family, although it can also be suitably luxurious or romantic for a couple to enjoy.

They are all over the range of places to stay, from rustic and really funky to posh and good enough for any elegant wedding,” said Kimberly Breeze, a Californian who now lives in Florence, Italy.
Colorful grapevines in Umbria.

An Italian agriturismo will often serve foods to guests prepared from raw materials produced on the farm or at least locally. Despite the rural nature of the lodging, one might expect a rustic experience; yet many agriturismi (the plural form of agriturismo) feature rather luxurious accommodations as well as swimming pools.
The Casolare dei Fiori, where Lucy and I stayed for two or three months a year from 2011 to 2015, near Montecarlo.

If we stay anywhere but our own holiday home in Italy, we always go to an agriturismo,” said Daniela Condon of Bradford, United Kingdom. ‟We prefer quiet places with a pool, off the beaten track, very comfortable, unfussy and unpretentious country surroundings, wonderful food made with local often organic produce, very fine wine and very good value for money.”

Tuscan hills and fields. Photo courtesy of Massi "The Driver" Mori.
The informality can also be a plus. You can often call just a couple of days in advance and still be accommodated. You are usually welcomed by the establishment’s actual owners, not a paid employee, and you get a close-up look at an Italian farm family in action. One of the most memorable aspects of an Italy vacation is the people you meet—and you are much more likely to develop a relationship at an agriturismo than a hotel. At most of the farm-stays we’ve experienced, the owners have been super friendly.
An agriturismo is absolutely the best way to get the complete Italian experience,” said Colleen Lee of Townsville, Australia. ‟I found mine in Tuscany years ago and go one or two times a year.
Ancient grapevines in Umbria.
Another aspect we love about agriturismi is that each is unique—from the products the farm produces to the types of rooms and the meals offered. The grounds and rooms have been developed to match the personal tastes of the owners. Some offer meals and others don’t. Some owners speak only Italian but have found ways to communicate essential information anyway.
We also like the privacy; many times we’ve been the only guests, especially during the off-seasons. Some people have the misconception that because a meal is sometimes provided, everyone will be sitting together at dinner, but this is not so. If there are other guests also dining at the same time, they will generally be at a separate table—unless you invite them to share yours, which is not a bad idea. Don’t forget, it is people that usually prove to be the most memorable part of a vacation.

This is the best way to travel in my opinion,” said Lisa Castrignano of Monte Rinaldo, Le Marche, Italy. ‟They are a good value and it is nice to get to know the owners. We have met good friends this way as we have returned to several for years. We do try and find one that offers meals so we don’t always have to drive someplace.”
Sheep farmer in countryside near the Casolare dei Fiori.
The cost can run about 50 to 70 euros a night for a two-person unit, which often includes a mini-kitchen. Breakfast is sometimes included, but not routinely. Some agriturismi include dinner in the price, while others make it available at a reasonable rate. However, the savings from having a kitchen can be substantial. Excellent homemade Italian food can be purchased at bargain prices at a local rosticceria, macelleria or large grocery store (see How to eat well in Italy), which can help keep your food budget more manageable.
Youll get the chance to discover a different Italy—hidden places, great food , great wines, amazing landscapes,” said Adrian Tudor of Roermond, Netherlands.

My family has an agriturismo in Sicily, and I can say that staying in agriturismi is getting more and more popular,” said Dora Moscati of Siracusa, Sicily. ‟But if you really want to meet the family or take part in activities, you can’t book just two nights. You have to stay at least a week to share cooking, making marmalade or limoncello or visiting the orchard. Only with slow traveling can you really enjoy an agriturismo experience.”
Old buildings in the remote hilltop village of Lucchio.
Agriturismi are everywhere in Italy. Just go to Google maps and type in the name of a city and then agriturismo if you don’t believe it. They won’t all have the word agriturismo in the name. Some say farm, fattoria, podere or tenuta, which all mean pretty much the same things. However, because they are farms, they are often not located near train stations, so it is easiest to be traveling by car. Otherwise, it will take some searching to find the few that can be easily reached by public transportation.

‟Read the info really carefully, Breeze cautioned, to see how far they are from any services and what is open seasonally, such as restaurants, bars, pools and other features—especially determine the distance from the nearest town. E-mail them directly if you need more info. My biggest beef is the pool in the photos is usually only open June to September.”

Some agriturismo owners will pick you up and take you to the train stations, but then you are dependent on both the schedules of the proprietor and the train. Lucy and I have done this in our earlier years of Italy travel, but we don’t like to be so restricted and now almost always go by rental car. Some farms are extremely remote and must be reached on long dirt roads winding into the hills. If your vacation plans include frequent day trips, avoid these, but if it is peace, quiet and isolation you seek, they are perfect escapes.
You can reserve an agriturismo on most of the popular booking sites. The website has a good filter to help narrow down the amenities. You can also just find them on Google maps and contact the owners directly Most of them have their own web sites.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comments welcome.