In the early 2000s you could book a room at a B&B in Italy. However, when you arrived you would find that you had actually rented a room within an apartment building. You might have had a couple of pre-made pastries and a coffeemaker for breakfast. Although the Italians might not have gone in for big breakfasts, it was still disappointing.
This was exactly what happened to me when I booked what I thought I was a B&B in Siena (in the English meaning of the term). It was my first trip to Italy in 2001. Although the apartment was amazing, it was located within the old city walls and had a fantastic location. It also featured a historic frescoed ceiling. However, I was still somewhat confused by the lack of breakfast.
It is possible that apartment owners in Italy, such as the one I rented, saw “B&B” as a synonym for more familiar English lodging terms like “hotel” and “inn”, and assumed it to be just another type of accommodation. They may have thought they were offering the ingredients for an Italian breakfast so “B&B” was a perfect term. It is also possible that foreign tourists were not familiar with the Italian term “agriturismo” and missed the many B&B options that exist in Italy. This could be because they used a different name.
What is Agriturismo?
The Italian words for “agriculture”, “tourism” and “agriturismo” are combined. However, the English equivalent – “agritourism”, has not really taken off. There are some places that advertise “farm stays,” which is the closest English equivalent to “agriturismo”. An “agriturismo”, is an type accommodation in Italy where a farm has converted at most some rooms (or structures) on the farm property into guest rooms. The farm is open to guests who want to not only stay but also participate in harvesting, forage in the garden, and take cooking classes.
Agriturismi in Italy (the plural of the word) are working farms. Guests must be served products grown on the farm, whether it’s olive oil or wine from the estate’s orchards and vineyards, or produce from the small garden. Many agriturismi are proud to use ingredients from their own land and bring all the food they need from nearby. In rural settings, the emphasis is on seasonal and hyper-local food.
The Agriturismo’s History
In the years following World War II, small farms struggled to survive and many former farmers were lured to large cities to work as factory workers for better wages. This was the foundation for the agriturismo movement. This might not seem like a bad thing except that Italy is small and cannot afford to lose large swathes of its agricultural land to housing or industry. Soon, it was fearful that it would have to import all its food.
1985 saw the establishment of an agriturismo to protect farmers’ land and keep them working on their farms. Agriturismi can be converted by farmers to a part of their land. The government provides financial assistance. Rules govern how much food guests can eat on the farm, how often guests may stay at the property, and how long a farmer must be in the business of establishing an agriturismo.
What to Expect From an Agriturismo Hotel Stay
- Agriturismo lodging can be anything from a spacious en-suite room in a historic farmhouse to a small room in a newly constructed building to a fully furnished apartment on the farm. Some rooms do not have an en-suite bathroom. Not all rooms are converted into luxury farm retreats.
- Agriturismo is a wonderful option to relax away from the Italian cities or for exploring the countryside. You can find the perfect place for your kids, or a romantic getaway. It all depends on what you are looking for.
- The prices for an agriturismo vary greatly. While some agriturismos have higher rates because of their luxury level, others offer great deals in lodging that offers serious perks. You can find something to suit almost every budget.
- Agriturismo breakfast is almost always included (but make sure you read the description). It can include a variety of items made on the farm, such as cheese and fruit jams.
- Sometimes additional meals can be purchased for an extra charge. They are often served family-style in a farmhouse dining room.
- Agriturismo properties are usually located in the countryside. They are farms after all, and can be difficult to reach if one doesn’t have a vehicle.
- Agriturismo offers many extracurricular activities, including horseback riding, wine tasting and swimming, cooking classes and farm tours, as well as participation in the harvest.
How to Locate Agriturismo Properties
Agriturismo is becoming more popular. To find the best place to start, do a quick internet search for “agriturismo” and the name of the town or region you are interested in. Agriturismi can be listed on some online accommodation websites along with hotels, hostels and other lodging options – just search for “agriturismo”, or the name of a region, if you’re not sure.