Tuscany has always been a haven for those who love glorious countryside, culture, tradition, food and of course wine. Historically this landscape has provided inspiration for the world’s greatest artists, writers and thinkers, as well as a refuge for the frazzled from the rigours of modern life.
Over the past twenty years, tourism to this region in Central Italy has been boosted by the concept of “agriturismo”. Redundant farm buildings have been turned into comfortable vacation accommodation so holidaymakers can enjoy the privacy of their own space whilst sharing any on-site facilities like barbecues and swimming pools with the farmer and his family. It’s always been an ideal kind of holiday for those with young children and provides an excellent introduction to rural life in this part of Europe.
And now, in tune with the spirit of the times, some of these farmers are offering a “greener” kind of vacation. Their farms have converted to organic production (“produzione biologica”), and home-grown organic foodstuffs are available for purchase on-site by anyone staying at the farm or in the vicinity. Just imagine how good it feels to be eating and drinking the fruits of the very land you are staying on, in the company of the people who have nurtured it.
So what can you expect from an organic farm holiday? Obviously it varies from place to place but the main characteristics are:
* Farm buildings, barns, haylofts etc. set in a beautiful location in a rural environment, often surrounded by vineyards and olive groves. The conversions are always tastefully done, with any original architectural features (for example wooden beams, vaulted ceilings and terracotta floors) faithfully and beautifully restored
* Spacious gardens or grounds
* Close contact with nature
* The friendly hospitality of the farmer and his family. Help can always be provided and laughter shared, despite any language barrier
* The opportunity to purchase organic produce directly from the farm. Depending on the season, this could be olive oil (in particular the extra-virgin olive oil for which Tuscany is famous), wine, fruit, vegetables, jam, honey, chestnuts etc.
* On-site facilities e.g. barbecue, swimming pool, mountain bikes, table-tennis, table-football, bowling pitch, children’s play area
* Possibility to eat typical Tuscan meals prepared by the owner of the property. There may even be a restaurant on-site
* Excursions into the neighbouring countryside. This could be walks in the woods, mushroom-picking expeditions or further afield into a nearby town or village if a minibus is available
This type of “green” vacation is growing in popularity as an increasing number of people feel the need to “get away from it all” and connect with a gentler way of life in tune with the changing seasons. Organic farm holidays will recharge your batteries and help you return to your day job both rested and invigorated.
Isn’t that what a holiday is all about?
Copyright Gillian Dearnley 2006
Gillian Dearnley has been a lover of all things Italian for over 25 years. Her company One Stop Italy arranges self-catering vacation accommodation throughout Italy. Visit her website and browse the online catalogues with over 3000 accommodation possibilities. Help and personal advice a speciality.
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