Some travelers relish the idea of experiencing Italy the way the locals do – by getting off the beaten path and seeing something besides the big cities and tourist traps. One easy way to do this is to think differently about your accommodations in Italy.
I saw an article a couple of months ago about how “agricultural tourism,” known as agriturismo in Italian, is rising in popularity, and it didn’t surprise me at all. Agriturismo in Italy can take many forms, from a working farm where you get to take part in some of the daily agricultural activities to what feels like a plush B&B-style resort where the most energy you’ll expend is in lifting your fork to your mouth at mealtime. The common thread is that these are places out in the countryside, often surrounded by farmlands and away from other tourists.
Some agriturismo facilities will have cooking classes or horseback riding, others will organize day-trips to area attractions, and still others will provide opportunities for guests to milk or feed the livestock. It’s all about what you’re interested in – the options are nearly endless.
Agriturismo has been popular in Italy for ages, with Tuscany leading the way in terms of both number and quality of places to stay, and it can be more than just a way to experience another side of Italy – it can also save you money. If you’re traveling with a group or as a family, some agriturismi will offer the country living experience with your own kitchen so you can save money by cooking for yourself if you like. (This is especially handy if you’ve got kids around who are picky eaters!)
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Here’s a video about one particular agriturismo in Tuscany:
Another way to get off the beaten path is to book a vacation rental in Italy or to rent an Italian villa (just because it’s called a villa doesn’t mean it’s posh or even expensive). With these kinds of accommodations you should expect to have your own private living quarters, including kitchen space, so again, this is a good thing to consider if you’re traveling with a family or a group. In addition to the usual things to keep in mind when you’re moving (even temporarily) into someone else’s house, Spot-On has a few more questions to ask yourself.
And if you’re thinking more in terms of budget travel, where the word “villa” just doesn’t figure in, you might look into camping in Italy. Most campsites will be closer to touristy cities, but they won’t be smack dab in the center of everything. And almost all of them provide everything you’ll need for your stay – so don’t worry about bringing along a tent or sleeping bag. Campsites in Italy can be cheaper than hostels, and they’re certainly not your typical accommodations.
More cheap sleeping options can be found, albeit often with strict rules, at the various convents and monasteries in Italy. Sometimes, the only way to stay near the center of town without breaking the bank is by taking advantage of the monasteries and convents that have turned part of their building into a sort of hostel. The buildings and grounds are often picturesque and historic, and if you’re a woman traveling alone you can’t beat a convent for a sense of security. Just be sure you know all the rules going in, especially as they relate to curfews or wake-up calls or unmarried men and women sleeping in the same room.
Oh, and if you’re so romanced by Italy that you decide you want your very own apartment to which you can return year after year, and which will pay for itself quickly because of all the people who’ll also be dying to rent it while you’re not there, don’t jump in blindly. Here are a few tips you’ll need if you want to buy a house in Italy.
Photo by: Angelo Babbaro