2019 update: I wrote this article many years ago… back then AirBnB did not exist, so, nobody would say things like: “I stayed at an AirBnB for my holidays in Italy”… If you want to read why this sentence is wrong follow this link!
Valle Nuova is an Agriturismo, guests often ask me what “Agriturismo” means. This is a short attempt to help international travelers willing to find their way in the mysterious world of three kinds of accommodation facilities that are very popular in Italy: Agriturismo, Country House and Bed and Breakfast (B&B). The main characteristic that differentiate these three types of accommodation from hotels is that they are smaller and that you’ll probably be taken care of by the owners.
My suggestion, when you are looking for these types of accommodation, is to read all the information on their websites, read all the reviews that you can find and don’t relay on the “type” of the accommodation to choose. Different facilities in different regions may offer different kinds of accommodation, services and style. None of these categories of accommodation are intrinsecally cheaper or more expensive; more “rustic” or modern; fancier, simpler, more sophisticated, more genuine, better or worse. You just have to find the place that is good for you.
When I enjoyed my stay in Agriturismo, Country House or B&B, the real deal has always been a caring and charming host.
If you’d rather be independent and prepare your own meals you may look for “vacation rentals” or “villa rentals”. These are apartments or houses where you have the whole space for yourself and they include a kitchen. These may be part of an Agriturismo or Country House or may belong to other categories.
An Agriturismo is a working farm with accommodation and/or restaurant. The accommodation can be offered in rooms, apartments, houses (villas), or camping. Breakfasts, lunches and dinners may be offered but may not be available. If meals or breakfasts are served almost all the products used to prepare them must come from the owner’s own and local farms. The number of rooms (apartments, etc.) and number of restaurant seats allowed depend on the size and activities of the farm (a bigger farm can “support” a bigger Agriturismo).
What characterizes all Agriturismos is that it’s a way for farmers to differentiate their incomes, giving them direct access to the market for their products, either serving their produce as meals for guests or selling it directly for guests to cook or take home. So when you choose an Agriturismo you’re supporting sustainability and countryside living, if the farm is organic, even more so!
This is the most complicated category to explain. Country houses are houses in the countryside offering accommodation in rooms or apartments. So, what’s the difference between a Country House and an Agriturismo? Basically only that a Country House doesn’t have to stand on a working farm and that the owners do not have to provide food directly from their farm. In some regions if meals or breakfasts are served some of the products used to prepare them must come directly from farms in the same region.
Bed and Breakfast (B&B)
B&Bs in Italy are quite new. Every region has a different law regarding B&Bs and some of them have no law and rely on the national legislation. The main difference between a B&B and the Agriturismo and Country House is that they usually stand in villages or towns and that B&Bs are private houses. The number of rooms in a B&B is limited by law – they can have from a maximum of three rooms (Tuscany, Emilia Romagna) to maximum of six rooms (Puglia). The owners usually have to live in the same house. The B&B can’t stay open all year long and the owners have to serve breakfasts but dinners are usually not available. Other requisites vary greatly depending on each Region.
A Mixture of Accommodation Types
Sometimes you’ll find places called “Smith’s Agriturismo Country House B&B”. So, what exactly are they? Some regional laws allow owners to “belong” to more than one category, so the Smiths will probably have a farm that is not big enough to offer all Agriturismo accommodations, so they will have a couple of rooms as Agriturismo and some more as B&B and maybe a restaurant that belongs to the Country House category. A bit confusing for guests but legitimate.
So, how do I choose?
Now that you know what these categories stands for you’re probably ready to just disregard them and rely on the information on the accommodation website. You just need to know what is important to you and look for it!
Another suggestion: spend some time online and book directly with the owner! Browse each property’s website and contact the owners directly: this will give you the real feel of the place and of the people who will be in charge of your holiday (and most of the time the rates will be lower!), I think that it’s time very well spent!
Valle Nuova is our Agriturismo in Le Marche near Urbino.
Valle Nuova offers self catering accommodation in our working organic farm. Dinners are home made with mainly home grown ingredients, guest’s welcome baskets also feature products from our farm and guests are welcome to collect organic fruit and vegetables. Support our effort in protecting the environment, come visit!