Just as not all travelers look alike, neither does all budget travel. Some people like staying in hostels and meeting other travelers. Others prefer to get a little more off the beaten path and meet the locals. In Italy, two ways to do the latter are staying in monasteries (or convents) and staying in an agriturismo.
As you might imagine, staying in a monastery or convent is going to have more strict rules than your average hotel. There’s almost always a curfew and a lights-out time, and often there are expectations that guests will participate in prayer times and group meals. If you’re a religious person and looking for an escape from the bustle of everyday life, however, this might be just what the doctor ordered.
An agriturismo is usually a combination of two things – a working farm or vineyard plus a bed and breakfast. You’ll find these more often outside the city, which means they’re easier to get to if you’re driving your own car. If you’re lucky, the one you find will be a beautifully ancient-feeling building where you get to dine with the family that owns it.
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Agriturismi aren’t that difficult to find, as many are available for reservations through online booking services. Some will be listed in the better guidebooks and some have their own websites. It can be a little bit more of a challenge to find monasteries and convents that rent rooms – they don’t always have websites! – but one famous destination for centuries of pilgrims is still hosting guests today: Assisi.
This video from Travelistic focuses mainly on the Franciscan monastery in Assisi – it’s a fantastic overview of what it would be like to stay in a monastery, so you can see if it would be to your liking. There’s a brief snippet on the end of the video of an agriturismo as well, though that one looks particularly swanky! Certainly not every agriturismo will be a mansion, but chances are very good that you’ll have an incredible experience either way.
For more information about staying in monasteries or convents in Italy, check out this article from Transitions Abroad. There are a couple of guidebook recommendations at the end of the article – I would recommend checking them out of the library, especially hunting for more updated editions of them, before buying to make sure they cover the regions you want to visit.
There are several agriturismi in Italy listed on BootsnAll – just searching for the words Italy agriturismo yields a long list of results. To search more specifically based on location, you’ll need to look through the Italy hostels listings for accommodations whose names begin with the word “Agriturismo” in the city/town you’re interested in visiting. Just because they’re listed in the hostels section, don’t confuse them with dorm-style hostels – think of them like a countryside B&B. You can also search the listings here.
Photo by: Brian Bruner