An “agriturismo” is an Italian farm which offers accommodation to guests. Prices, standards and facilities vary hugely so it pays to do a bit of research. Some are rustic in the truest sense of the term with mosquito infested rooms, leaky showers and incessantly barking farm dogs while others may offer quite a luxurious experience. The best ones, I think, fall somewhere in between the two; I’ve enjoyed amazing hospitality, fantastic food and stunning scenery at plenty of farm stays over the years. In case you’re not familiar with this type of holiday, I’ve listed the main reasons to stay at an agriturismo for a family holiday. Also, I’m concentrating on the traditional sort of agrturismo, not the luxury end of the market.
- Plenty of space
If you’re travelling with children, young or old, it’s important to have plenty of space. Young children in particular need to run around and burn off some energy, older kids will enjoy exploring, while teens can enjoy some independence by borrowing a bike and escaping to a nearby village.
- Good value
Prices range depending on quality and the time of year. We paid 120 Euros per night in Sicily including breakfast for a one bedroom apartment at Nacalino Agriturismo and the same price for a quad room at Baglio Pollicarini. This summer, we’re meeting friends in Rome and I’m looking at some farms near Tivoli. I’m being quoted 85-140 Euros for a family room or apartment in high season.
Of course, if you’re after a more luxurious experience, there are plenty of (pricey)places offering a farm-lite experience. Hotels are popping up all over the place in Italy with the word “masseria” (meaning fortified farmhouse) in their title, particularly in Puglia where this type of farm originates. You’ll have luxurious bed linens and gourmet food but your farm experience might be limited to passing a photogenic gnarled olive tree on your way to dinner.
This was my main reason for staying at agriturismos pre-kids. From sipping amazing Vino Nobile with steak near Montepulciano in Tuscany to an epic banquet in Piedmonte prepared solely for my husband and I, some of my most enjoyable gastronomic experiences have been on farms in Italy. However, if your kids are anything like ours and they just want pasta with pesto, your gracious hosts will more than likely rustle that up too. And of course, the breakfasts are superb: think freshly squeezed orange juice, homemade cakes and biscuits, fresh bread with local jams and honey. We were even asked to sample some tiramisu for breakfast in Sicily.
In summer time, you generally eat outside at agriturismos so once your children have wolfed down their pasta they can go and play while you enjoy a five course meal at your leisure.
Some agriturismos are very simple affairs with just a few guest rooms in a converted barn. However, you can find a whole host of facilities at some properties including self catering facilities, full board meals (Italians love this), swimming pools, playgrounds, farm museums, bike hire, cooking lessons, spa treatments, horse riding, Wi-Fi (that’s the teens sorted) and so on.
- To make friends
An agriturismo is a great place to meet other children, particularly in the summer months. Even without having a common language, children have an amazing ability to befriend one another and find common ground.
- More than 2.4 children? No problem…
Many agriturismos offer apartments or cottages with one or more bedrooms making them a great value alternative to traditional hotel accommodation. Italians are very creative with space and always manage to cram lots of sofa beds into their holiday accommodation. And if you don’t want to cook for your brood, plenty of farms offer self catering accommodation and a restaurant so you have the best of both worlds.
Italy is an agricultural nation, there are farms everywhere: near the seaside, in the mountains and close to cities. Don’t assume that you can’t use a farm as a base for a beach holiday, there are agriturismos aplenty near the Tuscan coast as well as in Le Marche and Puglia. Given the undulating nature of Italy’s landscape, you’ll often get a stunning view from your bedroom window.
For our trip to Rome this summer, I can’t face being in a city centre hotel when it’s so hot and I don’t want to fork out for an expensive city hotel with a pool. So I’m planning to book a farm stay close to a train station so that we can commute into Rome and then escape at the end of the day to a rural idyll with a swimming pool and a great restaurant!