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Barrels of balsamic vinegar at Acetaia Sereni in Marano sul Panaro, Italy - Roberto Leoni

Eating Well at Italy’s Agriturismos

By Megan Giller

The Harper Way | June 8, 2017

Every meal in Italy can be an event, but seasoned travelers know that on each trip a few dining experiences distinguish themselves: the pasta camouflaged under a mountain of grated truffles, the osso bucco so tender a knife becomes unnecessary, the tiramisu that floats above the table like a coffee-kissed cloud. There’s one infallible way to guarantee you’ll have those experiences: by visiting an agriturismo.

Though the word loosely translates to “agricultural tourism,” in Italy it means a working farm that offers a place to stay and a house-made feast using local delicacies from the farm itself. Many are wineries or olive oil farms or creameries, and almost all harvest gorgeous fruits and vegetables from their gardens and make pasta, breads and sweets from scratch. You may encounter other tourists, but they’re almost always Italian, as most agriturismos are still a bit under the radar. Though we sometimes found ourselves searching for the dining room at what was essentially a farm, we were also often greeted by a full professional staff and seated at private tables to enjoy a romantic evening.

While you can stay overnight at an agriturismo, you can also rest elsewhere and head to the farm for a decadent meal. You’ll need to call ahead to make a reservation for lunch or dinner at all the places below, but the planning is well worth the reward. Here are 10 of our favorites across Italy.

NORTHWEST ITALY


You’ve come to soak in the beauty of the Cinque Terre, relax at a spa on the shore of Lake Como or shop in Milan’s Quadrilatero d’Oro. A day trip to a delightful agriturismo will complete your immersion.

Agriturismo Sorsasso

Agriturismo Sorsasso in Domaso, Italy

Begin your evening with breathtaking views of Como and Domaso, wine glass in hand. Husband-and-wife team Daniele Travi and Roberta Beltracchini have been making award-winning wines like the Domasino white blend of Verdesa, Sauvignon and Trebbiano grapes at this location since the late 1990s, though the Travi family has dedicated its life to oenology since the late 18th century. The four-course meal is as sublime as the libations: Expect house-made salamis and cheeses, bruschetta, risotto, ravioli and steak, all accompanied by homemade olive oil, as well as house-made grappa and a rotating selection of desserts, served at one long table in a romantic stone wine cellar.

Agriturismo Sorsasso
Via Gaggio 1/Bis, 22013 Domaso; +39 0344 910022

Cascina Madonna

At this rustic farmhouse built in 1603, the Italian proverb mangiare per vivere e non vivere per mangiare (“Eat to live, not live to eat”) takes on new meaning. Prepare yourself for a whirlwind of more than 10 mouthwatering courses of Piedmont cuisine, which is known for its selection of raw meats and wine-braised proteins. Feast on chicken croquettes with saffron sauce, agnolotti alla Piemontese and beef braised in Barolo. The farm specializes in growing fruits and nuts, with apple, peach, cherry and hazelnut orchards, as well as plenty of vegetables and herbs, which means that “farm to table” comes to life here.

Cascina Madonna
Via Alessandria, 55 – Refrancore (AT), +39 0141 67456

TUSCANY


Pecorino. Chianti Classico. Salame Toscano. And, of course, the beloved cinghiale (wild boar). While the tourists lean into bad pizza in Pisa, you’ll be dining on gourmet local ingredients at one of the gorgeous spots below.

Villa di Campolungo Agriturismo

Villa di Campolungo Agriturismo in Fiesole, Italy Esten Borgos

Dating to at least the 15th century, this secluded eco-friendly villa, whose grounds are studded with cobblestone paths and lush greenery, maintains a country-house charm, with running water from nearby natural springs, geothermal heat and electricity sourced from photovoltaic panels. The owners make their own organic extra-virgin olive oil on site, and they encourage you to wander the olive groves. Their delicate olive oil has notes of fresh grass and artichoke and is used in all the food (plus in bottles to take home and savor later). The only way to enjoy a full meal here is to make it yourself, in one of chef and owner Silvia Cantini’s cooking classes: Imagine classic Tuscan dishes like ravioli with spinach and ricotta as well as tagliatelle and risotto. Before dinner nibble on local Pecorino made by a family-run cheesemaker in Scarperia with raw organic milk as well as house-made onion jam and honey on focaccia, baked fresh every morning. After savoring your freshly made pasta, indulge in a tart or cake that you’ve baked from scratch, then take home the recipe to impress your friends at your next dinner party.

Villa di Campolungo Agriturismo
Via Campilungo, 1 – 50010 Fiesole Caldine (Fi), +39 055 0515250

Il Rigo

The rolling hills and vineyards behind the Casabianca farmhouse Il Rigo

Visit this charming Tuscan farmhouse at the beginning of December when olive oil producers descend upon the tiny medieval town of San Quirico for the annual olive oil festival. After you’ve had your fill of festivities, escape to this romantic landscape, with its rolling green hills and quiet calm, where they serve a different seasonal meal every day in the stone barn, which dates to 1572. Snuggle up in the courtyard near the wood-fired oven or linger at the cantina for a wine tasting and antipasti before dinner. For the main meal, imagine dishes like saffron rabbit and roast pork, pici pasta with garlic and tomato sauce, and chocolate salami (chocolate, fruit and nuts shaped like the charcuterie item), accompanied by Tuscan wine that’s as spectacular as the scenery.

Il Rigo
Localita Casabianca, San Quirico d’Orcia, +39 0577 897281

EMILIA-ROMAGNA


In the birthplace of tortellini, prosciutto, balsamic vinegar, Parmigiano-Reggiano and mortadella, it’s only proper to spend most of your time eating. In addition to fine dining at celebrity chef Massimo Bottura’s Osteria Francescana (rated one of the best restaurants in the world), in Modena, and elegant San Domenico, in Imola, are these more informal gems.

Acetaia Sereni

Testing balsamic vinegar at Acetaia Sereni in Marano sul Panaro, Italy - Robert Leoni
Acetaia Sereni in Marano sul Panaro, Italy - Acetaia Sereni

All across the area, families grow and transform grapes into highly prized, luscious balsamic vinegar (it’s called black gold for a reason). This special acetaia (meaning “a place that makes vinegar”) is run by the Sereni family, in particular the youngest member, a golden-haired twentysomething named Francesco Sereni. At meals here, balsamic vinegar is the star of the show: You’ll feast on dishes such as ricotta tortelloni vecchia Modena, pan-seared with butter and sage and topped with Prosciutto and 12-year DOP balsamic; gnocco fritto (fried dumplings); and tigelle (a typical round bread) with more prosciutto, salami from Modena, locally made honey and house-made jams. A dessert of risotto is topped with fresh strawberries and more balsamic vinegar. Round out the meal with biodynamic wines from the Emilia-Romagna region and Lambrusco Grasparossa of Castelvetro. Come early to see the balsamic vinegar production, which includes an attic full of oak barrels from the early 20th century, and taste-test a variety of products, including balsamic “pearls” made through the magic of molecular gastronomy.

Acetaia Sereni
Via Villa Bianca, 2871, 41054 Marano sul Panaro; +39 059 705105

Bio Agriturismo Corte d’Aibo

The rolling hills at Bio Agriturismo Corte d'Aibo in Monteveglio, Italy Bio Agriturismo Corte d'Aibo

Deep in the countryside outside Bologna is Bio Agriturismo Corte d’Aibo, a farmhouse winery specializing in organic wines made from Pignoletto, Sauvignon, Barbera and Merlot grapes. Before dinner, roam the hills and valleys and lounge by the tiny yet calming biolake with a glass of wine. Portions here are ample and the produce as fresh as it gets. Make sure to come during truffle season (April through November) and your dishes will feature not only shaved but also whole chunks of the coveted mushrooms in pasta dishes as well as mains. When you think you’ve eaten more than you can stand, you are served steak, roasted pork shoulder and more. Acquire some homemade nocino (walnut liqueur) for friends and family on your way out.

Bio Agriturismo Corte d’Aibo
Via Marzatore 15, 40050 Monteveglio; +39 051 832583

VENICE


Given the hustle and bustle of St. Mark’s Square, you’d never suspect that the city was once known as the Most Serene Republic of Venice. Once you leave, there are a handful of truly peaceful places to unwind.

Ca’ de Memi Agriturismo

The garden at Ca' de Memi Agriturismo in Piombino Dese, Italy Ca' de Memi Agriturismo

Forty minutes outside Venice by train, this pink farmhouse, owned by the Scquizzato family, sits on the edge of town and is surrounded by fields on which you’ll find an enormous garden and orchard with fig, pear and plum trees. But the real gems are the animals, like guinea fowl, rabbits and ducks, that are raised on site and used to make regional Veneto dishes like risotto with fegatini (chicken livers) and Paduan hen in saor (hen in a sweet-sour sauce). Finish the meal with fresh fruit tarts, rotated by season. Also find carefully curated wine and beer lists from the Veneto region, with gems such as Moscato Fior d’Arancio from the Euganean Hills and the latest from the microbrewery 32 Via dei Birrai. If you taste a dish you love at Ca’ de Memi Agriturismo, take one of their cooking classes, where you can learn to channel your inner Italian mama.

Ca’ de Memi Agriturismo
4 Via Roma, Piombino Dese, 39 349 69 87 953

SARDINIA, SICILY AND THE AMALFI COAST


Amid the beaches, the sublime Mediterranean climate and the stunning hotels on the Amalfi Coast are some of the best home-style restaurants in the world awaiting your discovery.

Agriturismo Li Mori

The exterior of Agriturismo Li Mori in San Teodoro, Italy Agriturismo Li Mori

At this homey farmhouse on the coast of Sardinia, you’ll enjoy a seemingly never-ending stream of courses, including antipasti like pancetta and Pecorino; fried zucchini with ricotta, mint and honey; arancini with fresh tomato sauce; handmade Sardinian pastas; cured sausages; and roast suckling pig, the house specialty. If you’re lucky you’ll feast on these riches in a traditional pinnettu, a round shepherd’s hut made of stone and wooden beams. Also don’t miss an informal tour of the big house next door, filled with rural relics. The hosts and hostesses don’t speak much English, but an amiable attitude and plenty of food and wine for each table say it all.

Agriturismo Li Mori
Li Mori 08020 – San Teodoro, 39 0784 851000

Agriturismo Borgo Antico

The terrace overlooking the countryside at Agriturismo Borgo Antico in Mineo, Italy Borgo Antico

Citrus and olive groves envelope this elegant and welcoming villa in Sicily, an organic farm that produces jams, jellies, extra-virgin olive oil and organic vegetables like artichokes. These treasures make their way to the dinner table in the form of a 15-course feast bursting with Sicilian delicacies: Ragusano cheese served with house-made orange jam; sun-dried Pachino tomatoes; pasta dishes with beans and chickpeas. Sumptuous main courses feature the famous black pork of the Nebrodi mountains followed by homemade ricotta cake for dessert and wine made from the Sicilian grape Nero d’Avola. Explore the grounds before supper, then head to the long communal table for a truly memorable evening.

Agriturismo Borgo Antico
C. da Bellatovaglia SP131 Km 0.900 – Mineo, 39 0933980083

Il Cannito

The kitchen at Il Cannito in Cannito, Italy - Il Cannito
Pasta being made at Il Cannito in Cannito, Italy - Il Cannito

This hidden gem in Paestum, on the coast of Southwest Italy (less than two hours from the Amalfi Coast) boasts a healthy yet indulgent Mediterranean-inspired menu. The Gorga family fell in love with the area, especially the nearby well-preserved Greek temples, and built a luxurious space, incorporating two buildings from the 13th century, with travertine terraces, 300-year-old oaks and whitewashed wood all around. In their garden, Antonella and her mother grow everything from tomatoes and eggplant to figs and cherries, as well as produce extra-virgin olive oil — all of which makes its way into their exquisite meals, available only to overnight guests of the agriturismo. On the menu, discover pasta all’ortolana (homemade pasta with fresh tomatoes and fried vegetables), Parmigiana di Melanzane (the authentic version of eggplant Parmesan) and rotating fish dishes such as spaghetti with clams or baby octopus, soup bursting with blue fish and baked sea bream with potatoes and green salad. Meanwhile Antonella’s sister, Santa, specializes in traditional Italian pastries, cakes and tarts so delicious that you will want to sample them all.

Agriturismo Borgo Antico
Via Cannito, 84047, 39 0828 1962277

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