What is an agriturismo?
Agriturismos have their origin in Italy during the 1950s to 1970s, when farming became much less profitable and traditional farms could no longer make ends meet. Farmhouses that once held multiple families, now only housed one. Traditional agriculture was never focused on profit, farmers grew food for their families, and they sold whatever was left for a little bit of income. Many farmers had to abandon their homes and towns in search of other work that could provide for their families. During this time farming culture was disappearing, creating a cycle of deterioration on the farm and its buildings. Farmers needed a way to sustain their way of life on the farm.
In the 1980s because of growing concern, the Italian government recognized the concept of Agriturismo. A word formed by the words Agricultura (Agriculture) + Turismo (Tourism). This idea has allowed farmers to subsidize their incomes by offering a tourist experience on their farms. Many farmers were given grants, to enable them to return to their land and restore their farms.
They had previously been kept as Italy’s best-kept secret. Today holidaymakers are looking for more authentic experiences and staying on a family-run working farm in the Sardinian countryside offers this.
What can you expect from staying at a Sardinian agriturismo?
As you may expect, the whole experience is rather informal, most of the time, your hosts are working full time on their farm. There is no concierge or room service, this is not a luxury hotel. But you can expect a healthy dose of Sardinian hospitality and a very warm welcome. The guests usually stay at the farmhouse or an annex build on.
It offers an alternative to hotels and invites tourists to venture inland, to glimpse into the lives of Sardinian farmers and interact with them on a deeper level than a hotel manager. Staying on a farm is also a great value when compared to hotels. Usually ranging from 30- 70 euros per night.
A farm stay is suited for all. Whether you are coming to Sardinia for a family holiday, a romantic holiday, or just passing through on a bike tour. A farmhouse offers relaxation, entertainment, and privacy.
If you want to be hands-on your hosts will allow you to help with the sheep milking, you can also learn the process of making ricotta and cheese. There is always something to do, your hosts will love to show you around the farm. The farm may keep honey bees, or offer horse riding lessons. The list is endless, but other activities from cooking lessons, preparing region pasta, wine tasting, climbing, and swimming.
You can explore the surrounding areas, towns, and ancient sites before returning for dinner at the farm. Breakfast is usually offered with marmalades made from fruits of the farm and eggs collected that very morning.
Sardinians have a rich farming tradition and have a passion for making cheese, wine, and olive oil. The fertile Sardinian soil has always provided. In the form of an abundance of vegetables and wild fruits, they take this fresh food produced within their farm boundaries to cook incredible food. Agriturismos commonly have a restaurant accommodating a large number of people on certain days and offering traditional Sardinian cuisine incorporating ingredients from the farm. In fact, to be classed as an agriturismo, produce from the farm must be used in preparing food.
Eating at an Agriturismo
From 25-35 euros you can expect extraordinary value. The dishes have been specially crafted and follow a specific order. Begin with the antipasti displaying a host of prepared meat from the farm and grilled vegetables, followed by two pasta dishes, dishes of vegetables, two meat courses, and a selection of deserts local to the region. Local red wine is flowing throughout, before the traditional Sardinian digestivi of Mirto and Grappa (known as the water of life.) with a Caffe espresso at the end. The dishes are unique to each farm, depending on what they cultivate and what is in season. There is no better dining.
I have always eaten well at an Agriturismo, even when I was a vegetarian. There is still a variety of dishes, and the hosts are very accommodating. Recently I went to have lunch in an Agriturismo in the north of the island, and we were all stunned by the Sardinian lady who managed to host twenty of us single-handedly. She had a real connection to the food she was serving and was very knowledgeable. Though this may be a given when the food is grown a hundred meters from the restaurant doors. I was impressed with every dish.
There is something special about driving or walking out to an agriturismo in the countryside. Then driving into the farmyard, seeing the chickens running around, fruit trees lining the fields and vegetable gardens looking bountiful. Here you know, what you will eat will be as fresh as possible. This is a very sustainable form of tourism that supports Sardinian families in their traditional ways of life. It gives them the finance to continue to restore their farmhouses, bring some energy into the local economy, and preserve the landscape.
Agriturismi may sell their produce directly to the guests, this may be homemade liquors, wines, cheeses, marmalades, procured meats, and oils. So you can continue the experience and share with your friends of the family, at a great price, while giving the farmer a little extra income.
Finding an Agriturismo?
There is over 10,000 agriturismo in Italy, with hundreds in Sardinia. One of the best things about farm stays is their location. They are all situated in beautiful Sardinia countryside. They can be challenging to find, in the winding roads and rugged inland of the island but you will be rewarded when you arrive. An oasis ticked away in the hills, now you can unwind from the city, observing the happens on a farm and enjoy the highest quality food you will find anywhere. In the countryside, you can witness the spectacular views across the Sardinian hills, the starry skies of the night, and the peace.
There are many different types of agriturismo across the island so find a farm fo you, some farm stays will have spas and swimming pools. While others focus on a total nature immersion. They are dotted around Sardinia, typically 10 minutes inland from the coast.
Most of the farm-stays have websites and are easy to find online. Agriturismo.it lists over 150 locations across the island with a helpful map, so you can find the ones nearest to you.
Agriturismos give you the opportunity for a holiday experience to remember, a chance to sample some of the best food in Italy, will residing in a rustic and authentic setting.