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What is Agriturismo? It is an Italian term for a farm holiday or agricultural tourism, but mainly it’s a concept. The idea is to better apprehend farmers’ life and rural traditions. It is taking in the culture, art, food and the countryside of Italy. It is not about working on a farm or even necessarily staying at a farm.
Many agriturismi (the plural of agriturismo) offer guests cooking and/or painting classes, horseback and bike riding, language lessons, guided tours or wine tasting – none of which you are required to do. Some farms do have programs where you can participate in various tasks. Italy does a fantastic job of educating and promoting their products and they do it with passion because they believe they have the very best.
The advantage of agriturismo is to experience a tranquil vacation and come in contact with the local population and nature. Enjoy biking for example through olive groves, or hiking in a National Park. Some areas have thermal baths and most have cathedrals and architecture rich in history and art. You can enjoy local food grown either on the farm or from the local area. Meals are often served family style by people from the farm or village. One small castle we visited in the Assisi area was located down a long dirt road surrounded by olive groves. There were only 6 rooms, all occupied by people of different nationalities. We ate at a long table in the dinning room served family style by local women from the village. Large dishes of pasta and roasted chicken held by one woman and served by another filled our dishes as we tried to discover what languages we all could communicate in. The conversation was translated into French, German, English and Italian and we managed to have a lively and fun discussion. All of the ingredients were farmed in the local area and the olive oil was made from olives grown in the surrounding orchards.
We took an apartment at a farmhouse in Montepulciano where we had a kitchen and shopped at the local markets and prepared some of our own meals. The owner of the farm helped us out by recommending where to go and what the specialties were of the area. The farm also had a pool and taking a swim late at night after a day of activities with views of the town of Montepulciano lit up at night was enchanting – we were in another world. We sat outside under an awning-covered patio overlooking the gentle hills and patchwork of colors created by the terra cotta buildings and farmland as we enjoyed a breakfast of fresh melon and prosciutto, fresh breads and pastry from the local pasticceria. Breakfast is a good meal to prepare yourself as the local markets have wonderful fruits, salumi and cheeses. Italians tend to eat a very simple breakfast of croissant and cappuccino. Speaking a little Italian in this case helps and is a great opportunity to practice. Italians are very understanding about language so no need to be embarrassed if you don’t speak well. They are truly happy if you make the effort. There are many free Italian lessons on-line if you want to learn some helpful phrases.
Many towns have revived traditions and costumes such as old games, plays and sports performed in traditional costumes that characterized the midlevel life of the area. Having your own transportation is important, as you are in the countryside where public transportation is not readily available. If you don’t have a car, then look for locations that are serviced by public transportation or where proprietors are willing to pick you up at the train station. Possibly a portable bike would work if you want to use public transportation but still have some freedom of movement. It all depends on how much your willing to invest in getting to and around your destination. Many farms will have bikes for you to use but be sure to inquire, as you will want to explore the area at your leisure. Most regions offer Argriturismo vacations. It always pays to do research before booking a region or farm.
You can find websites on the Internet but keep in mind the activities you enjoy the most and make sure that you will be able to experience them in your chosen area. Also inquire about major local events. Most of these places are small and sometimes prices increase and reservations during major holidays/events are difficult. Argriturismo vacations are often but not always the least expensive way to travel, this is a concept that brings together a way of life and nature.
Two agriturismi that I visited this summer in Veneto are “Col Delle Rane” in Caetano, S. Marco (Treviso) Italy http://www.coldellerane.it/en/home.asp and “Nicobresola” in Custoza, Verona http://www.nicobresaola.it/. Located in Veneto both offer wonderful accommodations at reasonable prices. If you are visiting Verona, Lake Garda, the Prosecco wine route are in a good location. Venice is only an hour train ride from both locations and the train is very inexpensive. Look for my articles on Veneto which will be posted here in the near future.