Do you know what I think is the BEST stay in Italy right now? It’s the Agriturismo. For those of you who may not be familiar with the agriturismo, they are “farm stays” in Italy. Kind of like renting a room on a working farm but with pizzazz!
Now, I’m not talking about a small cottage in the middle of nowhere and you have to milk the cows to earn your keep – although I bet you could find something like that if that is your cup of tea. The agriturismos I have stayed in have been elegant, beautifully restored family homes that now accommodate guests in a setting similar to a bed and breakfast, but the key difference is the fact that the agriturismo must produce a certain percentage of agricultural goods – like olive oil, wine, limoncello, livestock, grains, veggies or fruits.
The original idea was to help support the dwindling number of family farms and save a way of life that is being forgotten; to preserve history. To allow guests to wrap themselves in a true Italian experience and honor their family-based roots. I think the US could take a lesson here!
Agriturismos can be found in other place in Europe. In my humble opinion, agriturismos are amazing!!! They TEND to be less expensive than a traditional B&B (around $40 per person per night including breakfast) or hotel, and the food is fresh off the farm; the people are genuine, engaging and delightful, and the accommodations are typical fairytale-esque! I have personally stayed in three different agriturismos, and while each of them have been different, they each had gorgeous qualities that made me want to return!!!
Let me tell you about my agriturismo adventures!
When my husband and I traveled to Italy together in April 2016, we stayed in two agriturismos – one in Sorrento, operated by a lovely Italian Mama and her 3 sons, and a Tuscan vineyard agriturismo outside of San Gimignano, operated by the family that produces Palagetto wines.
The Antico Casal Agriturismo in Sorrento was lovely – our first trip to Sorrento and our first farm stay. We arrived late in the day after driving from Rimini that day (on the Adriatic side of Italy) and were welcomed with smiles, invitations to dinner and a beautiful room with a view of the incredible Sorrento hills – lush with citrus trees and olive groves. Antico Casal boasted an amazing view of Sorrento from the rooftop terrace, where we first enjoyed the famous Aperol Spritz – my husband’s favorite summertime beverage. This is one of only a handful of agriturismos in Sorrento and took advantage of the sloping Sorrento geography with terraced plots for lemons and livestock.
One fabulous story I would love to share (there are many – including finding my brother-in-law’s long lost brothers) is about the night we ate three pounds of fresh steak! No kidding! So that morning, we got up early to do some sightseeing. We enjoyed our breakfast (fresh squeezed orange juice, pastries with NUTELLA in them – I have noticed a severe lack of peanut butter all over Europe – but at least they make up for it with nutella!), fresh yogurt and fruit. We headed outside to take a quick walk out on the terrace and noticed a massive side of beef strung up under the pergola and the butcher hard at work. We learned that a week before our arrival, one of the beef cattle went to slaughter and here he was, returned, for our dinner! We marveled at the sheer magnitude of the butcher’s work ahead of him, and then left for the day dreaming of a gorgeous steak for dinner.
Little did we know that we would ONLY have steak for dinner!!! Well, and a salad and dessert – but seriously – our hosts explained that they had spend ALL day butchering a preparing the beef so they had little time to prepare fresh pasta or another side, so we literally had a slab of beef each with a fresh bed of new greens! Talk about meat sweats! Holy Cow! But it couldn’t have been fresher or any tastier! Oh and so you know, many agriturismos offer dinner with your stay for an additional cost – we have found that typically the dinner is about $25-$35 per person and that includes a started, one or two main courses, dessert, wine, limoncello and cappuccino – well worth the quality and quantity of food, but you are not obligated to eat there – just let them know in the morning if you will be there that evening so they have enough fresh food prepared.
In Tuscany, we stayed at at the Torre Palegetto – about a mile from the ancient gates of San Gimignano – we had met up with my lovely sister-in-law and brother-in-law in Sorrento and enjoyed the second half of our trip with them. We stayed in a two bedroom ancient tower (Torre) that was complete with a living room with an magnificent fireplace, a dining room and an adorable kitchen – and did I mention the TOWER!!! FAIRYTALE! It was enchanting and I cannot even describe how many checks on my wish list I got to mark after this stay!
Most recently, the amazing agriturismo we stayed at outside of San Gimignano this summer is called La Lucciolaia. It is one of a few sister agriturismos owned by the Palagetto winery and they have renovated traditional Tuscan farms and towers into these beautiful rooms and homes away from home! We were VERY pleased with our stay! We had two rooms on the lowest story of the farmhouse complete with our own patio with majestic views of San Gimignano in the distance! We stayed here for three lovely nights and used this centrally located base as our jumping off point for lots of sightseeing. We spent time in Florence, took a train from Florence to Venice for a day, toured San Gimignano, took an amazing winery tour at the Palagetto Winery just minutes from our agriturismo and also had a private cooking lesson at our agriturismo from our chef the night we arrived. It was fantastic!!! I will expand on this more when I write about how we ate our way through Italy!
Well, that was quite a Travel Tangent – but I highly recommend that if you are going to go on a do-it-yourself tour of Italy, you check out Agriturismos for at least some of your stays!