When I visited Italy last year, I stayed on a working farm in Puglia, otherwise known as an agriturismo or masseria. I’ve been to Italy several times, but this was my first time staying in a farmhouse. A lot of people don’t know about agritursmi – the plural form of agriturismo – so I thought it would be useful to share some information on them because they can be a great choice of accommodation for a variety of reasons.
What is an agriturismo?
Literally speaking, the word agriturismo comes from the two words agriculture and tourism. Agriturismi came about in the mid-1980’s, when the Italian government passed a law to help farms that were enduring financial struggles, come back to life. By offering the farms incentives, and providing financial assistance, the government helped the land owners to restore and rehabilitate the farms’ buildings, houses and estates.
In turn, these newly refurbished farmsteads became open to the public, where people could stay overnight and eat the land’s food. Thus, agriturismi were born, providing the country and its farmers with a new source of income and way of living.
Agriturismi can be found throughout Italy, from Sicily and Calabria to Tuscany and Piedmont. Many people assume they only reside in Tuscany, but the truth is they can be found in almost every rural region of the country. The one I stayed at is located in Puglia, located in the southern heel of Italy’s boot. In Puglia they are called masserias, but serve the same function as agriturismi.
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Agriturismi also come at varied price points, from rustic stays to luxurious ones. This is another misconception – many people assume staying at an agriturismo means staying under shabbier conditions, but these days they come in all sizes, shapes and colors. If you’re looking for one with a pool and spa, there’s plenty of options. If you’re looking for a simpler one – a place to just enjoy Italy’s gorgeous countryside – well then there’s plenty of options as well.
As for family travel, if you’re looking for one to take the kids to that is equipped with a playground, farm animals to see, family-size rooms and pool, then there are some great options as well. Some agriturismi have guest rooms, while others have entire houses with private pool for rent.
Benefits of staying at an agriturismo
There’s a few things about staying at an agriturismo that I’d like to highlight, as these are what separate a farm stay from a regular hotel, Airbnb or B&B stay.
It’s not to say that you don’t experience authentic Italy by staying in a hotel or in a city, but staying at an agriturismo takes it to a whole new level. First of all, you’re staying on someone’s property and have the intimacy of getting to know the farm owner (in many cases it’s a family-run business) and hearing from them first-hand about the country, how they produce some of the world’s best food (more on food and meals below), advice on what to do in the area, and where to go. It’s a totally unique experience in and of itself. If you want more, or total, privacy you can have that too; it’s still a unique experience.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the delicious farm-to-table food you have access to by staying at an agriturismo. Italy produces some of the world’s most coveted delicacies, including olives, cheese, produce, almonds, wine and more. Imagine having it served to you every day out of someone’s home. True farm-to-table, the food does not get better than this.
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When I stayed at Masseria Morrone, breakfast consisted of fresh eggs, fruits and breads, along with cereals, cheeses, meats, and more. For dinner one night (I stayed two nights), they had fresh pasta and oranges from the orange grove; the next night was a meal which consisted of a meat course along with practically every vegetable imaginable prepared perfectly. The table was a sea of colors, veggies just waiting to be inhaled. Not only was it delicious, but healthy too.
At most agriturismi and masserias they sell specialty items that have been produced right there. For example, I purchased some of the farm’s olive oil to bring home. I wish I had bought more, for it went in a flash, and tasted like pure farm-to-table olive oil.
Different agritursimi have different meal options and packages (and where to eat – if you want the privacy of your house, etc.), so make sure when you’re booking to check out their meal options to make sure it’s right for you.
There is something about being in Italy’s heartland that takes your breath away. Olive groves, lemon trees, sunflower fields, rolling hills – they all characterize Italy’s countryside. We went for daily walks and enjoyed a peacefulness that you can’t find in the bigger towns and cities. Walks where you saw no people, but land and botanicals for miles, all producing the delicious food you know you’re about to eat in a few hours. Masseria Morrone was near the Adriatic Sea, so we could see both the land and water, which was exquisite.
Different Price Options
I really like that there are different price options, depending on what you want in an agriturismo. For luxury travelers, yes you can find an upscale farm stay. It may not have a hotel lobby and concierge, but what you get in the beauty of the place for sure compensates. If you’re a budget traveler, an agriturismo can be a great alternative to the regular hotel. Many people have said they’ve made Italy work for them financial-wise, because they stayed at an agriturismo. It’s a really useful, cost-effective way of visiting Italy.
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Need to Know
Staying at an agriturismo generally requires the use of a car. There are some where the owner will pick you up at the train station, but most require you driving to the farm. You will want a car anyways, to explore the area, and visit towns on day trips.
Agriturismi can be hard to find! Many of them are located down a dirt road, sometimes poorly marked. Just make sure to communicate with the owner or manager before your visit so you can have exact directions and phone numbers to call in case you have a hard time finding it.
How to Book an Agriturismo
I’ve seen agriturismi on sites like Booking.com and Hotel.com, but it seems the best way to find the perfect agriturismo for you is to visit the website agriturismo.it. It has all the listings with English translation.
I hope you find this guide helpful, and please leave any questions in the comments.