All images: Agriturismo Niccolai
Traveling can be exhausting, so when you spend your days running around cities trying to soak it all up at once, it’s nice to escape the mayhem at night.
One way to unwind while you’re away is to stay with the locals; far from the madding crowd.
In Italy, especially over the past 20 years or so, it has become more and more popular to seek out farm stay accommodation. It doesn’t mean you have to get up at the crack of dawn to help feed the cows or pound the butter – although, no doubt your hosts would love it if you do!
It just means you get to stay with a local family, in the countryside and experience what life is like away from the tourist traps.
And they’re not always what you would imagine a country farm to be. Yes, some even have stunning pools.
The word agriturismo blends both agriculture and tourism, and depicts a growing favorite among tourists known as “the working farm”. This type of lodging became available in Italy when a law was passed in 1985 to help promote tourism in rural areas, introducing the idea of having small farms host visitors.
There’s no better way to experience a land and culture than to live with a local resident.
Besides a warm bed and a roof over your head, some farmers offer cooking classes, wine tours, or an abundance of fresh local produce.
The native ambience you feel during your stay on a working farm can easily enhance your understanding of the culture, especially if you’re allowed to get involved.
Also, don’t be surprised if you pull up to your accommodation and see a large, family run restaurant. Many of the argriturismos have a side line in catering. You may find such delicacies as local wine, cheese, olive oil, or produce highlighted on the menu.
The agriturismo idea benefits both the traveler and the locals: travelers get to stay in great accommodation and meet people they probably wouldn’t by staying at a hotel in town, while the hosts receive a government subsidy, which go towards the cost of running the farm. It’s a win-win situation.
Some travelers may think they are being intrusive or that it might not be as romantic as staying in an upscale hotel, but there is such a variety of agriturismos available now it’s worth having a good hunt around for one that would suit you before you write off the idea completely.
Researching your stay is easy, it’s making the final choice that is so hard.
A noted must for your farmhouse stay is to have your own car. It is essential for practical reasons. Farms are not usually in town and your own car allows you to explore as you desire.
Word of warning: timid travelers who rely heavily on the hotel concierge may want to steer clear. You will not get that type of service on a farm. It is more for the independent traveler who likes to create their own agenda.
So if you are one who hopes to experience a taste of the local culture, a stay at an agriturismo may be right for you.