What is an Agriturismo?
The word agriturismo is a combination of the Italian words agricultura (agriculture) and turismo (tourism). It translates in English to something along the lines of a ‘farm stay’ – a working farm that also has the facilities to host and feed its guests, using its own produce. What makes an agriturismo holiday so special – and what makes us keep recommending it to our clients – is the chance to sample la dolce vita in the most authentic way possible.
How Did they Come About?
Traditionally, large farmhouses were home to a number of families, who would farm small parcels of the surrounding countryside. However, in the 1950s and 60s, agriculture in Italy was in decline; many farmers couldn’t support themselves and were forced to move to the towns and cities to find work.
This left a lot of large farmhouses with just one family living in them, struggling to make ends meet. In the 1980s, the idea of the agriturismo was born: working farms would host guests in their unused rooms in order to support their rural livelihood. Not only did it provide much-needed income for the farms, it also educated tourists on the food that finds its way to their plate.
What Should I Expect?
At our carefully-selected agriturismo properties you can look forward to the best of both worlds: rustic, secluded bliss in an old stone masseria (fortified farmhouse), casale (country house) or even a Saracen tower, while enjoying all the luxury comforts you expect from a boutique hotel.
Far and away my favourite thing about staying in an agriturismo is the heavenly food it serves. From a breakfast of a dozen fresh fruits, meats and cheeses to a gourmet dinner made entirely from home-grown produce, you will certainly never be hungry! Some also offer the opportunity for a tour of the farm or vineyard, or a cooking lesson that lets you try your hand at making a traditional regional meal.
You should expect most agriturismo properties to be remote and sometimes only accessible via narrow country lanes – that is the charm of them, after all. However, we include a hire car in our packages for all of the properties listed below, giving you the freedom to come and go as you please.
Hidden away down a bumpy, rustic track in Western Sicily, Mandranova offers everything a Sicilian agriturismo should. The farm buildings, which include an old winery and an old train station, house spacious rooms and suites with a simple, typically Sicilian style: tiled floors, chunky wooden furniture and exposed roof timbers. I love the fact that there are nods to the hotel’s agricultural heritage everywhere – even the swimming pool is a converted gebbia, previously used as an irrigation cistern.
The thing that I loved most about staying here – and about agriturismi in general – was the friendliness of the hosts. Guiseppe and Sylvia went out of their way to make me feel like a treasured guest.
In the rolling hills of Cefalu hides Masseria Susafa, a centuries-old farmhouse that has been in the same family for five generations. For me, this property is all about location, location, location – each of the 13 of the bedrooms are on the ground floor, opening out onto the terrace and gorgeous gardens, allowing them to take advantage of the spectacular panoramic views of the surrounding countryside.
One of the most outstanding features of the Masseria Susafa is the onsite restaurant, Il Granaio. Set in a vaulted wheat store dominated by huge stone arches, this à la carte eatery offers a mouth-watering menu of local delicacies, all prepared with their own olive oil. Afterwards you can relax and sample Sicilian viniculture in the wine bar, which occupies the same space that used to house the estate’s wine press.
Relais Torre Marabino
Deep in the Baroque South East of Sicily, just ten minutes from the beach, is the Relais Torre Marabino. This former Saracen tower was used as a farmhouse in the nineteenth century for those who worked the nearby land. Now it has been converted into a charming guest house surrounded by 120 hectares of its own farmland and greenhouses, and 30 hectares of vineyards.
Although surrounded by countryside, unlike the others on the list this property is well placed for visiting the atmospheric towns in the south of the island, including Modica and Ragusa. Imagine returning home to this rural idyll in the evening after exploring all day – what bliss!