Italy's Farm Country
In the eighties, the Italian government kept struggling rural farms in business while simultaneously encouraging city dwellers to explore the countryside by pushing the idea of "agriturismo," short stays on accommodating farms. The idea caught on, but the publicity stopped so many of the traveler-friendly farm hotels that dot every region from Tuscany to Apulia sit empty. And that means more selection for in-the-know visitors looking to enjoy country life and multi-course, farm-to-farm table dinners.
The type of accommodations can vary from farmhouses to villas to newly built apartments, but the rules of Italian hospitality, which require that visitors be given a measure of privacy, are immutable. That means no shared bathrooms and no forced small talk. Instead, spend your time wandering through olive groves or swimming in the large pools most agriturismi farms installed on their grounds.
The days are peaceful, but dinner really is the highlight of any agriturismo stay. Beyond the food, which is delicious in all the ways only fresh food can be, the experience of staying on a working farm provides an entirely different glance into the Old World than most travelers get wandering through Vespa-infested Roman squares. Camaraderie invariably increases each night as visitors and their hosts get to know each other. Meals get longer and louder and, more often than not, locals from the area come to the agrturismo for dinner after working the nearby fields. Americani are generally greeted with warmth.
In the end, the "tourist" component of an agriturismo is replaced by a sense of visitation and an intimacy with a part of Italian culture too few foreigners get to see.
More information: Agriturismo accommodations can be found online. Though they are run by families, few – if any – are run down. Most proprietors take an admirable pride in catering to their visitors wishes.