Agritourism in Italy
For the Italians, it’s no secret. In the past five years they have embraced a new way to see their country. It’s about getting closer to nature, closer to tradition and closer to peace of mind. For foreigners, it’s a mystery. But there’s only one thing stopping them from having the same connection with the country as the Italians – and that’s awareness.
I’m talking about a trend called agritourism (or agriturismo, as they call it here). If you think about the name, it kind of speaks for itself. It’s all about staying on a farm, eating the food grown on the farm, and using the location to either relax or to explore the nearby cities during the day.
Donatella Cavicchi is the owner of an agritourism hotel called Il Mandoleto near the Umbrian town of Solomeo. She describes it like this:
“This is not the house in the country, this is the house in the farm – this is different. We have the garden for all products, we offer my guests my potato, my salad, we have everything. We even cook fish we have in the lake.”
And her guests? “They’re normally people looking for quiet and a holiday close to nature, to relax,” she says.
Dressed in a black waistcoat and sporting a thick grey moustache, a rotund waiter slices prosciutto and pours sparkling white wine for us on the terrace of Il Mandoleto. The fava beans and tomatoes I put onto my plate all come from the property’s garden. The meat and cheese, I’m told, come from a shop in the nearby town. The emphasis here is on the local… and on the beauty which surrounds us.
“Umbria is the green heart of Italy,” Donatella Cavicchi tells me.
“And for this reason in effect people arrive in Umbria, there is no big town, it’s little villages, and the people arrive here to live in the country not in the town or the village.”
Agritourism for foreign tourists
Driving the narrow winding streets of regions like Umbria and Tuscany, you can see the small signs pointing to various agritourism hotels. Through the roadside hedges, up on hillsides, the stone buildings sit invitingly. But if you don’t know they’re there, or don’t understand what they are, it’s unlikely you’ll try one out. That’s the challenge facing the business owners here in Italy – and the reason so many foreigners are missing out on the opportunity.
“That is difficult for foreign people,” Cavicchi explains, “because normally in Italy all people know agritourism but outside Italy people imagine country house but this is different”.
The other thing foreign tourists often don’t realise is that this can actually be a very affordable way to visit Italy. The prices are not extremely cheap but they’re often less than a hotel (and can include a meal or two). You can easily find plenty of agritourism options that cost about 40 euro per person. Particularly if you have a car, this is a great way to explore the region and have a comfortable place to crash in the evenings (with a delicious home-cooked meal).
Give Donatella Cavicchi a call – and tell her I sent you…
*You can find out more information about Il Mandoleto here.
*Or you can have a look at this useful directory of agritourism in Italy.
Time Travel Turtle was a guest of the Umbria Regional Tourism Board but the opinions, over-written descriptions and bad jokes are his own.
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