Whenever people start talking about vacations in Italy, some of the first ideas that come to mind tend to include classical art, museums, castles, churches, basilicas, and Mediterranean beaches. On top of those, we also start daydreaming of postcard-perfect, sunny days when one can take a seat at an al fresco café that overlooks a lovely plaza with pretty fountains, order an espresso, sit back, relax, read a good book, and just enjoy our surroundings as the day goes by.
This image is actually pretty accurate.
Sometimes, though, we just really want to get away from it all, and being in a city – even if it isin a completely different country – just isn’t enough. This is where agriturismo comes in. As the term suggests, it is a combination of agriculture and tourism, or in other words, farm vacations. Italy’s countryside is as lush and vibrant as its cities, but where city living is all about movement and activity, agriturismo caters to those who would like to take a much slower, softer, idyllic pace.
It all began around the 70s when small-scale farming became less profitable for Italian farmers. However, given the nation’s fondness for traditions and artisanal products, a law was created in 1985 which defined agriturismo. As a result, abandoned farms and estates were restored and refitted to accommodate agriturismo, and a new industry began and flourished.
Agriturismo can be found in almost all parts of Italy and is a wonderful vacation option for families or for those who are traveling in groups. Visitors can either stay at one of the rooms in a farm house, or they can even have the whole place to themselves. These accommodations can range anywhere from rustic bed and breakfasts, to downright luxurious fully-serviced establishments, all depending on one’s tastes and budget.
One of the things that agriturismo-lovers look forward to the most is the food. Because the place is essentially a farm, the dishes that are served to guests tend to be made from the freshest organic fruits, vegetables and herbs that have been grown and harvested right on the property. These dishes are also prepared in ways that are unique to the region, and so you can count on having healthy, delicious, traditional fare during your stay. Coupled with the fresh air of the countryside and the lush, peaceful surroundings, every meal promises to be relaxing and memorable.
Other than the greenery and the dining experience, however, agriturismo also offers a number of other activities for visitors to try out and enjoy, depending on where they are located and what the farm specialty is. For example, some establishments hold cooking classes and farm tours for those who are interested in learning about traditional food preparation, while others may offer wine tastings that feature the pride of the local vineyard.
There are also those that feature cheese tastings that highlight cheeses that were made from the milk gathered from the same farm animals that you saw grazing around the property earlier in the day, while others still, offer more active options such as horseback riding lessons and tours,as well as hiking trips (followed by a picnic, of course). The variety is endless. In fact, if you choose to do so and if the proprietors allow it, visitors can maybe even try helping out with the farm work!
There you have it. For those of you who think that a two-hour bus stopover at a quaint little vineyard on the way to another city isn’t enough, for those of you who need to get away from the city lights for a good while, for those of you who want to be able to truly take in and savor the Italian countryside the way it’s meant to be taken in and savored, agriturismo will be a dream come true for you. So pack your bags, put on your hat, and remember that the Italian countryside is ready to give you the perfect vacanza in campagna!