For many, the ideal holiday might be as follows: arrive at the airport, check into a luxury hotel, and spend the rest of the time at the pool or the beach. That may be a good way to unwind and indulge in a bit of unstructured, do-nothing time, but it has always seemed to me to be a bit of a waste, especially when you are in a foreign country. Not that I am advocating racing around museums or culturally worthy sights, especially when the weather is hot and you are faced with queues and cross children, but maybe there is a way to have the best of both worlds.
In Italy, one way to experience an authentic taste of the country, its meals and its way of life are to book yourself into an agriturismo. They can vary from the simple and rustic to a level of sophistication that’s similar with any 5-star hotel.
Down On the Farm?
In order to officially qualify for ‘agriturismo’ status in Italy, the place must actually be an established farm or an agricultural business of some kind. It may not necessarily have livestock, it could grow grapes for wine, organic food, make olive oil and so on, but there should be some direct connection with agriculture. An agriturismo must also try to offer its guests local food typical of the area and items for sale in the farm shop should also be produced by the farm itself.
Being Italy, the original definition of a real farm offering board and lodging is now slightly more, how can I put it, flexibly applied, at least by the accommodation providers. You may be offered anything from simply a room with (or without) meals to a complete farmhouse with extracurricular activities like horse riding, Hiking, biking, wine tasting, cookery, art or ceramics courses. A search of the internet will reveal a vast array of country house hotels, bed and breakfasts, self-catering villas and apartments mixed in with old-fashioned farms, all under the blanket heading of agriturismo. Read the descriptions carefully to see what’s on offer. You may find that a country hotel or a small hamlet B&B might be exactly what you are after rather than the full-blown farm experience.
Food Glorious Food (and Wine!)
Also, an agriturismo vacation can be a great way to experience another side of Italy. Of course, staying in a tourist hot spot like the heart of Florence or Rome is unforgettable and exciting. But just imagine an alternative, where a stroll along a Strada Bianca could lead you to a tiny rural hamlet or a local Festa – with food and wine supplied by villagers on a budget – with music and dancing. Maybe this white road will lead you to a market, where you can buy slices of pork slow baked with fennel, a kilo of freshly picked peaches and a bottle of the local wine to enjoy later on the terrace of your farmhouse.
Many agriturismo owners will be only too happy to advise you on how to make the best of your stay, suggesting out-of-the-way restaurants that you would never find otherwise, or arranging a wine tasting. Agriturismo has plenty is the new trend in holiday vacations. Why not give it a try on your next holiday?