Saturday, November 24, 2012
If you enjoy an authentic, casual and soulful way of travel, Italian Agritourism may be the welcomed adventure for you.
Agriturismo, literally "staying on a farm," may initially frighten the unfamiliar, but have a second look; you won't be bailing hay or roping Chianina cattle (these giants can weigh 2,000+ pounds). You're more likely to be sipping wine grown from the very vineyard where you stay, cooking in your own kitchen with a fresh pressed olive oil where the mother trees are right outside your window or you may be swimming in a secluded pool, just for the use of a handful of guests. The farm fresh eggs pictured below? They were brought to me by my Tuscan hostess during my stay.
Best of all, living local means you can interact with the locals. That means inquiring minds can receive great insider tips on the best of the best for local eateries, markets and sights. If you're like me, you can practice your budding Italian skills with your local host/ess as most Italians are eager to help connect shared communication more so than we try in America.
Your agriturismo experience will take place in many a form; a villa, estate, farmhouse or apartment; each as unique as your thumbprint.
Living on the farm will bring you many special experiences. While you won't be "roughing it" per se, here are 3 key things to inquire into before booking your farm, sweet, farm:
1. Location ~ Obviously, farm living means it's unlikely you'll be in the city center. So make sure you consider how you will travel outside of the farm proper.
Rental cars are often the most convenient way of travel (not necessarily the most cost-efficient means of travel). You can learn more about renting or leasing a car in Italy in my upcoming post. In addition, you may find that you'll be within walking distance of a bus stop which will likely connect you to neighboring cities and regional train stops.
2. Keeping It Clean ~ You can take your clothes to local cleaners or self-service lavanderias, found in many communities. But if you prefer to wash things yourself at your place of stay or affordability is important to you, inquire into the availability of washers and dryers.
Clothes dryers are not the norm in Italy. In many cases, you'll have to dry your clothes outside on the clothes line or inside or patio-side on a folding clothes rack. Weather permitting, line-drying clothes may take 2 or more days, so you may need to be more regimented as to when you wash clothes... as well as how many clothes you pack (bringing fewer clothes means you'll be washing more often).
Automatic dishwashers? Only if you're very lucky (you have the "buona fortuna")! You'll often be washing and drying dishes the old-fashioned way; with your hands! I find that hand-washing dishes is a therapeutic release, so in the "paper-scissor-rocks" cleaning essentials game of clothes dryer vs. dishwasher, I pick the clothes dryer, hands down.
3. Staying Connected ~ While "getting away from it all" is important to some, staying connected for others is like air itself.
Having a cellular, digital or WIFI connection will be your lifeline to "Skype-ing" with friends and family, checking email and watching online video programming. Doing without these things is easier the shorter your stay, but during my 12-week stay, I realized my less-than-dial-up connection meant I'd have to multitask while I upload content... and that Skype-ing was out of the question. Always ask your host/ess if they are connected, if the TV, cell phone or computer is important to you. You can also have them do a WIFI speed test, and report the results back to you.
For me, the joys of staying in a villa rental far exceed any detriment. You'll find that your soul returns fresh and ready for another go of it. If you've been a part of the agriturismo inner circle, why not share your story and a picture on the For The Love Of Italy Facebook page.
Off for a hike with the Dogs!