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Agriturismo in Italy

Maybe you’ve already visited Italy once, so you’ve done the major museums and stayed in the historic city center before and now you’re looking for something different. Maybe you just aren’t that into cities and you’d prefer to wake up to the sounds of birdsong than traffic. Maybe you’re practicing your Italian and want to get to know some real Italians you can talk with. However you reached this point, you have decided that you want to stay in an agriturismo – and you’ve made a very wise choice, indeed.

What is agriturismo?

Agriturismo is an Italian term for what we might call a farm holiday or agricultural tourism, but it’s a concept that’s not really all that familiar to many travelers. Farm holiday? What’s that? Sounds like you’ll be up at the crack of dawn to milk cows and gather eggs, doesn’t it? And that’s not much of a holiday. Well, it’s a far cry from that image, believe me. Many of the farms which accept overnight guests are, indeed, working farms, but the vast majority of the time the guests are treated like royalty.

No, agriturismo isn’t about working on a farm, it’s about experiencing rural Italian life and a slower-paced holiday. The idea is that you rent a room in a farmhouse in the countryside where you can enjoy unparalleled views and exceptional food (usually at least one meal a day is included), and where your most difficult task each day will be deciding how to spend your time. Many agriturismi (the plural of agriturismo) will offer guests such things as cooking classes, horseback riding, guided tours of the area or wine tastings. Of course, if you’re on vacation to relax, you can also choose none of the above and just relax on the terrace with a good book.

When staying at an agriturismo, a car is often necessary.

The properties which offer agriturismo accommodations are, by definition, outside the city; this is a huge plus if you’re looking for the anti-urban experience, but can be a problem if you’re reliant on public transportation to get around. If you’re staying at an agriturismo, renting a car is probably the easiest option – you’ll be able to get directly to the property on your own, and you’ll also have the freedom to make day-trips of your own choosing. It’s not impossible to have the agriturismo experience without a rental car, however. When you’re reading about different properties, just keep in mind to look at whether they mention bus or train service to the nearest town and whether the owners are willing to come get you when your train or bus arrives.

Agriturismo stays are not always expensive.

After reading about how great an agriturismo is, you might be concerned about cost. You’ll be pleased – and perhaps surprised – to learn that many agriturismi are cheaper than hotels. In fact, in many accommodations booking engines they are listed under “hostels.” This could also be because in some cases you’ll have a private bedroom but share a bathroom, thereby cutting costs and making them more like a traditional hostel experience. For whatever reason, if you’re traveling through Italy on a budget, don’t rule out staying in an agriturismo.

Where can I find agriturismo listings?

There are several websites which specialize in agriturismi listings (you can find most of them by typing “agriturismo” into Google), but properties sometimes pay to be listed on each website, so they’re not exactly comprehensive or unbiased. Your best bet is to browse the listings at more than one of those websites, and don’t forget to look under the regular Italy hostel listings – just keep an eye out for the word “agriturismo” in the property name.

For more information, see this post on budget accommodations in Italy.

This video isn’t the greatest quality, but in it you can hear an agriturism owner in Umbria talking a bit about being a pioneer in the agriturismo world of Italy in the mid-1990s, and what an agriturismo experience offers guests.

photos, top to bottom, by: Toprural, Conanil