What Is Agriturismo?

The Italian countryside provides an authentic tourist experience

fontana del papa
••• Fontana del Papa Farm House. Fontana del Papa picture © 2006 by James Martin

Agriturismo — a combination of the words for "agriculture" and "tourism" in Italian — is a style of vacationing in farm house resorts. It's become popular in countries with scenic rural areas such as Italy, Ireland and India.

In Italy, most agriturismo vacations are suitable for the whole family, but there are some varieties that are more romantic and perfect for a couples' getaway. Despite the quaint-sounding name, many agriturismo vacations are quite luxurious.

History of Italian Agriturismo

Starting in the 1950s and continuing through the 1970s, small scale farming in Italy became less profitable and farmers abandoned many farms to search for work in larger towns.

However, Italians place great value and worth in their agricultural traditions, especially in the small-scale production of foods like cheese, wine and olives. By 1985 Italian lawmakers had created a legal definition for Agriturismo, which allowed for the rehabilitation and restoration of many abandoned rural buildings and estates.

Some were turned into vacation homes, and others were converted into agriturismo accommodations, similar to English or American bed and breakfasts. These agriturismi (the plural form of agriturismo) allowed small farmers to augment any income from the farm vacationers to have the unique first-hand experience of the rural way of life in Italy.

What You'll Eat on an Agriturismo Vacation

An Italian agriturismo will usually serve guests food that was prepared from raw materials produced on the farm or from other local merchants.

Some will allow the guests to participate in the activities surrounding the farm, such as picking the vegetables or milking the cows. 

Despite the rural nature of the lodging, one might expect a rustic experience; but a great many agriturismi  are high-end and feature amenities like swimming pools. You'll be in the Italian countryside, but you won't be roughing it by any means.

Agritourism and the Italian Economy

The agritourism bet by the Italian government proved a boon for rural farmers who could no longer rely solely on their farms' output for income. At least a million tourists visit Italy annually to enjoy the scenic countryside in agriturismo lodgings.

Although the rural population in Italy has declined since the end of World War II, the agritourism sector has given new life to some areas of the country where there were few other options for new industry.

Different Varieties of Agriturismo

Agritourism is so popular that there are even subcategories of agriturismo accommodation. For those seeking an environmentally-friendly holiday, many farms offer ecotourism alternatives with total immersion in nature. Tourists seeking a little pampering may opt for a wellness agritourism experience at a farm that offers spa services and treatments. 

Prefer to stay active on your vacation? You can choose an agritourism accommodation that includes horseback riding, climbing, swimming and other sports and activities. And if you're all about the food (and who doesn't want to sample as much authentic Italian food as possible!), choose a culinary-centric agriturismo with food tastings and tours themed around the cuisine of the area you're visiting