(For a more detailed report on where to go and where to stay in Tuscany check out our special Agriturismo Tuscany guide.)
Tuscany, having some of the best agriturismos/farmstays in Italy, and indeed the world, is also important for tourism generally. In a country of historical and cultural treasures the city of Florence stands out as a rival to Rome and there is surely no need to describe the attraction of Florence to any, even rare, visitor to Italy. The city chokes with tourists, almost uncomfortably so but outside the city it’s a different story, where the rolling hills of rural Tuscany can offer supreme respite.
As just mentioned, the area is possibly the most popular in the world for farmstays, or agriturismi as we should call them in Italy, and many foreign visitors have also caught on to it as undoubtedly the best way to really discover the beauty of the Tuscan countryside and its associated culture.
Olive farms, wine groves, rustic red tiled farmhouses and huge, hearty meals of the finest local produce, the Tuscan landscape and lifestyle has beguiled many for generations and, for those that can afford it, is very popular for second homes.
Chianti is usually the first place tourists from Florence and Siena encounter rural Tuscany. It forms a rough triangle between Florence, Siena and Arezzo, and is an area steeped in food and especially wine heritage. Chianti wines are perhaps Italy’s most highly regarded and there is a huge amount of wine tourism in the region; many agriturismo in Tuscany have their own vineyards, but in Chianti the majority do.
South and West of Siena there are many other highlights of rural Tuscany, especially in terms of the spectacular, hillside villages have become emblematic of the whole region. The most famous is San Gimignano, which is a stunning sight though can become like a mini Florence sometimes, especially in the summer. Tourists, especially foreign ones really can’t get enough of it though, and so if you want feel some genuine medieval atmosphere get there in the quiet of the morning, before the tour buses rumble in.
There are many other villages though that offer pretty much the same beauty and atmosphere but with competitively only a trickle of visitors. Pitigliano or Volterra are two good examples, and there are more.
This being the home of agriturismo, Agriturismi in Tuscany are generally top range affairs, with a quality and aesthetic that’s hard to beat. You’ll be spoiled for choice.
Our Recommended Agriturismi in Tuscany: Farmstays/Tuscany
Umbria, the heart of Italy, is lush and green and becoming a new hotspot for agriturismo. Outside of the main city attractions of Assisi and Perugia, especially in the east, with its acres upon acres of unspoiled woodland and hundreds of streams and rivers running through its valleys it is wild country, and charmingly unspoilt.
Over the years rural Umbria has evolved from being a remote feeling backwater to something of a new Tuscany and has become enormously popular with cultured holiday makers and aspiring second home owners, both Italian and foreign.
Piano Grande and Valnerina are rugged and wild, and Umbria contains Italy’s largest lake, Lago Trasimeno, a well known spot for watersports.
Not surprisingly, the agriturismo experience is becoming extremely popular, with some parts of Umbria already rivaling Tuscany in this regard and you can expect the same Italian countryside atmosphere in a slightly less pricey way.
Our Recommended Agriturismi in Umbria: Farmstays/Umbria
Little Le Marche sits neatly down facing out towards the gentle Adriatic with the Apennine mountains at its back. Though also a well known place for agriturismos, it’s probably more famous for beach holidays with its coastline hosting a huge amount of ltalian tourists during the summer months. Ancona is the capital and though an unremarkable place it has its own certain charm. Just above and below Ancona the coast is filled with busy beach resorts, it’s difficult to find anywhere that hasn’t been a bit overdone with basic beach tourism but they are there. The spectacular Concero Riviera is an example.
The town of Pesaro, on the north coast nearby San Marino, is the birthplace of the composer Rossini and its annual festival in his honour is a huge draw for international tourists. Inland Le Marche, away from the coast is beautifully unspoiled, especially to the south west, with hill side stone cottages and sleepy villages leading you on up to the Mont Sibilline range where hiking and hillwalking can be done in peace and solitude. Further north the scenery is less rugged but there is the lovely city of Urbino with its Renaissance era palace to be enjoyed and the great fortress of San Leo.
Le Marche’s wines are a great source of pride and there are many wine tasting and vinyard tours, many of which double as vineyard hotels, and you’ll also find a few more regular farmstays amongst the many vineyards.
Our Recommended Agriturismi in Le Marche: Farmstays/Le-Marche
ABRUZZO & MOLISE
These have only been two separate provinces since 1963 and though quite similar in nature, and certainly in terrain, the journey between Abruzzo in the north, south to Molise, is really somewhat of a journey from the North of Italy to the South.
The both share the great Apennine mountains, with Abruzzo making a bit more of its picturesque setting where its, only recently well visited, hill towns offer a glimpse into past centuries and whose unique culture, food and dress especially are the result of centuries of isolation from the rest of Italy. Farmhouse holidays here are a slighter newer concept than in say Tuscany, but probably provide some of the most special experiences a tourist could have. It’s coastline too is gaining popularity, with the great golden sands of Pescara a particular attraction.
Its southern twin Molise is less known for agriturismo and in general is a gentler place with less mountain terrain and less obvious tourist destinations, but a day spent visiting the splendidly isolated Roman ruins at Saepinum is a day well spent and all around Molise there are ancient trails known as Tratturi, along which shepherds once walked their sheep and are now starting to be used by adventurous travelers as hiking, horse riding and mountain bike trails.
Our Recommended Farmstays in Abruzzo & Molise: Farmstays/Abruzzo-Molise
Lazio lies very much in the shadow of Rome and thus struggles to have a touristic identity of its own. The south of Lazio might be fairly unremarkable in many parts, but its very much farming land and hosts quite a few good farmstays.
The north is generally considered much more beautiful and in some ways, despite being so close to Italy’s largest city, it could rival the more famously rural areas of Umbria to its north. There are gentle hills here and acres of lovely woodlands which many people tour by car on day trips from the capital. Viterbo is a lovely medieval city with a strong connection to the Vatican and it can serve as a good base for exploring the more remote hinterlands and, happily enough, for those who need more than a day to get the big city out of their veins, the surrounding countryside is great for farmhouse holidays.
Our Recommended Agriturismi in Lazio: Farmstays/Lazio
Emilia-Romagna, with Bologna as its capital, is another Farmstay/Agriturismo star, and it’s all about the food. It was here that lasagna, tagliolini, tortellino and prosciutto were first produced to name but a few. Its cheeses are famous throughout culinary circles as is its balsamic vinegar, piadina bread and albana wine. Eating, and the appreciation of food is hugely important here and it is one of Italy’s, and the world’s biggest centres of culinary tourism.
Of course it’s beautiful too. Even its modern capital, Bologna is a surprisingly pretty city while ancient Ravenna needs no introduction. But outside the cities, among the low hills and old stone houses there are hard working farms that add authenticity and integrity to some gorgeous countryside.
An agriturismo here involves food and lots of it, some of the finest in the world. This is why most people come to Emilia-Romagna and if it wasn’t why you came in the first place, it might just be why you return.
Our Recommended Agriturismi in Emilia-Romagna: Farmstays/Emilia-Romagna
LOMBARDY & VALLE D’AOSTA
Lombardy & Valle D’Aosta, are other nice destinations. They make up a prosperous, confident corner of the North of Italy that is dominated by the commercial and cultural modern powerhouse that is Milan. Milan is an interesting and important city but mainly in contemporary terms. A more old Italian experience though can found in some of Lombardy’s other cities, important renaissance cities as Mantua and Cremona for example.
Outside of the cities, Lake Como is one of the world’s most iconic lakes and has been for hundreds of years a place for sophisticated people to try and outdo each other with the grandeur of their lake-side villas. Things haven’t changed at all, and a lake-side villa at Lake Como is still the preserve of the super rich. It is also very much a centre for water-sports, hiking, horse riding and mountain biking. And particularly golf; it has a full seven courses in the surrounding area
There are other lakes around too, so don’t spend too much time staring at the back of giant houses on Lake Como wishing you were richer. Lake Maggiore, a famous windsurfing centre, Lake Isio and Lake Garda are the three most obvious alternatives though, to be honest, you probably couldn’t afford a house there either:)
Lombardy and Valle D’Aosta creep nicely up into the Alps to the North which form a dramatic, inspiring backdrop for Val Grande national park, a relatively unknown Lombardy treasure, is one of the most stunning natural landscapes in the country.
It is also rich agriturismo country and farm stays here are a high level, relatively more expensive, affair but you can really expect quality and service to be excellent.
Our Recommended Agriturismi in Lombardy & Valle D’Aosta: Farmstays/Lombardy & Valle D’Aosta
The city of Venice, one of Italy’s, and the world’s, tourism’s jewels, dominates the small province of Veneto like few other cities could, historically, politically and culturally. Probably no tourist in the world has ever come to Veneto without visiting Venice, it would be unthinkable. After the requisite gander on a gondola and photo outside Harry’s Bar they might then go on to Padova and Verona. It’s cities are famous but the countryside, and its agriturismi, can be spectacular too.
Sandwiched between Lake Garda and the Adriatic Sea it has the Dolomite mountains to offer a rugged backdrop as well as providing winter skiing and in the summer lots of good hiking and mountain biking. There are many wilderness areas with abundant wildlife and bird watching opportunities; the Po Delta or the Venetian Lagoon for example and there are some lovely inland villages too, Abano and Montegrotto for example are two that serve as spa resorts due to their abundant thermal springs. It is inspiring countryside, where a farmstay at a country cottage or farm house is a well established means of enjoying nature at its best.
Our Recommended Agriturismi in Veneto: Farmstays/Veneto
Trentino-Alto Adige where the jagged peaks of the Dolomites meet the Alps is truly spectacular. The regional capital Trento is a pretty town with great mountain views and serves as a base for the large tourism and winter sports industries that surround.
In the surroundings upmarket spas and thermal baths are very popular among rich forests and vineyards. And everybody from professional skiers and mountaineers to amateur hill strollers can, with the help of the numerous spectacular cable car routes, find something to appeal to them.
It is a strange mixture of Germanic and Italian. The Northern part Alto Adige or South Tyrol only became part of Italy at the end of World War One and to this day German is the dominant language. The landscapes, the architecture and the food feel a lot more Austrian than Italian too. It’s quite a unique place.
The southern part Trentino is almost fully Italian in language and spirit, though many Italians from further South will also feel a little bit like they crossed the border too. Everybody rubs shoulders very well here though and together they are autonomous areas with a degree of separation from central government.
Our Recommended Agriturismi in Trentino-Alto Adige: Farmstays/Trentino-Alto Adige
Between Piedmont and the coast is the Italian Riveria, a follow on of the French Riviera, though a lot less visited and therefore Liguria is more laid back and stress free. Its main city is of course Genoa, the ancient sea port which was once one of the world’s premier cities, now a still busy port town with a lively, pleasant old quarter and some rough and ready charm.
The coastline around Liguria is fairly developed, not as much as its French counterpart though and you can still find some relatively isolated rural areas. Even around one of its premier resort town Portofino, a trip through Cinque Terre leads to some wild, dramatic terrain overlooking the Mediterranean, with vineyards and small farms dotted among the mainly rocky, barren land.
Around Riviera di Levante to Genoa’s east is another good area for exploring. It’s mountainous terrain with some little villages along the coast, some of which are only accessible by boat.
Inland is as nice as you would expect, with olive farms and vineyards hugging the slopes of the Alpine Apennine foothills. And a wholly different experience to the coastal tourist areas. You can find beautifully scenic farmstays and country houses here of course but around the coast too, despite the dominance of semi glitzy hotels, many choose agriturismo holidays, some within a very short distance.
Our Recommended Agriturismi in Liguria: Farmstays/Liguria
Piedmont is a refined and sophisticated state bordering France and Switzerland in the far North West of Italy. It’s name means ‘foot of the mountain’ and is very much Alpine country to the North, with the slopes of the Matterhorn and Europe’s highest peak Mt. Blanc to be seen, and very much wine country to the South.
Some of Italy’s best wines are produced here. Asti Spumante and Barbaresco for example are produced among the hills of Monferrato and Langhe, which is also famous for its truffles
The majestic Lake Maggiore and Lake Orta have been tourist favorites for the last at least two hundred years and the valleys of Val di Susa and Val Chisone have in later years became extremely popular as ski resorts.
Again, this being Italy, agriturismo is a very popular way for the people of Turin, the regional capital, to escape the grind of city life as well as the many foreign tourists who are increasingly seeing rural Piedmont as a sophisticated getaway, and not just because of wintersports. Standards are high at these farmstays and the local food is great.
Our Recommended Agriturismi in Piedmont: Farmstays/Piedmont
This interesting little province in the far North East is surprisingly under visited by tourists. It has a wealth of history and culture that mixes Italian, Slovenian and Austrian culture and is a particularly interesting place for a rural holiday.
Its capital Trieste was built as a showcase port by the Hapsburgs, as it would be the Austrian empire’s only port. And today it still looks grand in a very Central European way. Around the city there is a mini Riviera with some nice, though fairly developed, beach resorts.
Inland you have the Carso, or Karst, a huge barren limestone plateau that is quite spectacular in parts and a great place for hiking. Beyond that there is plenty of fertile farmland, with vineyards and olive groves and all in the shadow of The Alps and the Frulian Dolomites. There are numerous nature reserves and many national parks around like the mountainous Dolomiti Friulane Park and the forests at Tarvisio.
Amongst the agriturismos here you can find German, Slovenian, Italian or Fruliano (the local dialect of Italian) speaking hosts, such is the mix in this very unique corner of Italy
Our Recommended Agriturismi in Friuli-Venezia-Giulia: Farmstays/Friuli-Venezia-Giulia
(For a more detailed report on where to go and where to stay in rural Sicily check out our special Agriturismo Sicily guide.)
Agriturismo might not come to mind on this island of volcanos and sun parched rocky hillsides, but the scent of orange and lemon trees everywhere will remind you of its agricultural nature. Rural Sicily is full of rugged beauty and has been coveted for thousands of years by so many of the world’s great civilizations.
The columns of Segesta’s 5th century BC temple, hidden away amongst the rocky mountains, or the amazingly well preserved Valley of the Temples at Agrigento. The spectacular Mount Etna or the other giant volcanic beast; the island volcano of Strombali dominating the sky amongst the Aeolian Islands are inspiring sights that punctuate a landscape where farming and fishing have been a mainstay for thousands of years.
Being so sparsely populated there are many areas that are untouched by human hand, farming or otherwise. Nebrodi National Park for example is lush and green woodland while Lo Zingaro, less than an hour West of Palermo is a stunning nature reserve that straddles the rocky coast.
Among the farmstays here you can sample food from some of Sicily’s finest natural ingredients. Wild herbs are abundantly used, seafood is plentiful and you’ll find recipes handed down for generations with each part of Sicily having their own slight variations.
Our Recommended Agriturismi in Sicily: Farmstays/Sicily
The heel of Italy, Apulia/Puglia has quite a remote feel and though usually ignored by foreign tourists plenty of Italians know it well, especially the coastline and they know just how lovely it can be. The town of Lecce, the Florence of the South, deserves far more attention, but is all the better for the lack of it, and the area’s sparsely populated countryside is dotted with ancient Basilian churches and prehistoric standing stones to be enjoyed almost completely alone.
Even the beautiful coastline, though in some places well visited by local tourists, is, for the most part, wild and untouched. You can find charming fishing villages like Santa Maria Al Bagno surrounded by miles of empty beaches with clean, golden sands.
Likewise the Gargano national park area is to be treasured. With its white cliffs, rocky paths and old forests overlooking the Adriatic it is a wonderful hiking and mountain biking destination.
Apulia for many Italians is one of the country’s secret tourism havens but many foreigners are starting to appreciate it too, for its un-spoilt landscapes, its hospitality and its old fashioned charm.
Our Recommended Agriturismi in Puglia: Farmstays/Puglia
Sardinia wouldn’t be known for its agriturismo because it is of course a beach heaven for those who can afford it and that style of holiday has come to define it. The famous Costa Smeralda these days has almost become a ghetto for the super rich, though Sardinia generally with a nearly 2000km long coastline can still offer something for everyone.
You can find isolated beaches with golden sands that anywhere else would be flooded with tourists but you can have all to yourself. And in the west of Sardinia you’ll find the lagoons of Sinis, a peninsula brimming with bird life including flocks of pink flamingos.
The interior as well keeps many secrets and some real, authentic farmstays. And especially in the east and north you will find some really spectacular scenery. Tough rocky mountains looking down on forests of cork trees and scatterings of sweet smelling of macchia shrubs.
Despite its reputation as a billionaires playground, outside of the Costa Esmeralda you’ll find accommodation, agriturismo included, very reasonably priced.
Our Recommended Agriturismi in Sardinia: Farmstays/Sardinia
The ‘toe’ of Italy, where it reaches down to meet Sicily is Calabria, and it really wouldn’t be a stand out destination for any tourist. Quite the opposite in fact. In the Italian imagination it is still only somewhat of a byword for poverty, corruption and underdevelopment. Its cities are grim and not very attractive but outside in the countryside it really is an ideal farmstay holiday destination where you can see and feel real Italian rural life.
It has some great coastline dotted with pretty little villages and its inland mountains contain a full three wildlife filled national parks. The parklands are nicely isolated and for the more adventurous, are superb areas to explore. It truly is a beautifully natural region and will undoubtedly become more of a major destination for tourism, and especially agritourism.
Our Recommended Agriturismi in Calabria: Farmstays/Calabria
Basilicata, in the centre of Southern Italy, is very similar to its southern neighbor Calabria, in being traditionally underdeveloped and neglected. In modern times though it has developed itself at a relatively fast pace, in tourism too, including agriturismo, but not yet to the same extent as other states to the North. Its countryside is classic rural southern Italy and can make for a really authentic farmstay destination.
Its most famous tourist draw is the amazing cave houses of Matera, while towns like Melfi and Venosa are as atmospheric as you’ll find anywhere. The countryside in between is in many parts quite barren, but beautiful too in its own rugged way, and along the roads you’ll find a few sparsely populated small villages and settlements where life hasn’t much changed for most people for decades.
Our Recommended Agriturismi in Basilicata: Farmstays/Basilicata
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