Most people have probably heard of agritourism, an amalgamation of the words “agriculture” and “tourism”, also frequently referred to as a farm-stay. Italy is generally credited with creating the concept and is arguably most famous for it. There they call it agriturismo, plural agriturismi, and despite Italy’s reputation for not really having a lot of rules (or at least not consistently following them!) this is one area they regulate to a significant degree. But I guess it should come as no surprise; when you’ve become famous for something and it contributes significantly to your economy, you want to be sure and preserve a high level of both quality and authenticity.
So, if you’re curious to learn more about the agriturismo concept, here’s a short introduction.
First of all, what qualifies a place to call itself an agriturismo? Well, by law they must first and foremost be working farms; in fact, the farming part of the name is their whole reason for existence. When the whole concept started, tourism was viewed as a way to provide an extra source of income to farmers who might otherwise have struggled the stay afloat financially.
It started in the post-WWII years on an informal basis, but in 1985 regulations were introduced to formalize the standards which must be met for a property to be allowed to call itself an agriturismo. In return for meeting these standards, the farms receive some financial assistance from the government, and of course gain the prestige of being able to call themselves agriturismi.
So basically, agriturismi are working farms which accommodate guests, and must adhere to strict regulations concerning food sourcing and production (among other things). Depending upon what services they offer, a certain percentage of their revenue must come from the sale of their own products, and much of the remainder must be sourced locally.
Beyond those basic tenets, the lodging options and environment of different agriturismi can vary widely. Some stick very close to their agricultural roots, offering guests the possibility to participate in farming activities, while others are quite luxurious. Some are perfect for a romantic escape for couples, while others cater to families with lots of child-friendly activities on offer. Basically, you can find just about anything!
The concept has proven to be popular, previously among the niche market of tourists seeking a rural farm atmosphere. But with many agriturismi located close to towns and cities, these days a wide variety of visitors take advantage of this unique lodging option.
My personal favorite Italian agriturismo is Corte San Mattia, located in the Valpolicella hills just above Verona. It’s both a farm and a winery, offers numerous lodging options, tours and wine tastings, and has a full restaurant. The views over Verona from the restaurant’s terrace are amazing, and we love the place so much that my husband and I chose to hold our wedding celebration there!