When many people hear the words farmstay or agritourism the first thing they think of is woofing, i.e. you stay on a farm for free but you have to work to earn your keep. But this is not agritourism, the key is in the name, it’s tourism after all, and is now one of travel’s fastest growing niches. Internationally the concept is only now gaining attention and a year old website called Farm Stay Planet claims to be the world’s first international showcase. It has hundreds of listings in so far 18 different countries with most being in Europe, particularly Italy.
The collection is searchable by location, by facilities and/or by the activities they offer, for example horse back riding, cooking classes etc. The vast majority are child or family friendly, with nearly a quarter being pet friendly.
The Italians have been perfecting the art of what they call agriturismi for years and you’ll find some of the world’s very best agriturismos in Tuscany particularly. These luxury agriturismos offer comfort and service as good as any top hotel with the added draw of being set in some beautiful rural landscapes.
They are all set on working farms and vineyards which means you can also gain a tremendous insight into the production of some of Italy’s best food and drink straight from the source. Their homemade food too will generally be of a very high standard with many of the ingredients coming fresh from the farm and many of them also offer informal cooking classes.
Though Tuscany is definitely the leader of the pack, and has by far the most you will find some fabulous agriturismos all over Italy with the agriturismo Sicily experience being a particular highlight.
Europe generally seems to be the most popular continent for farmstays with Austria being second to Italy in local demand. Many of the Austrian examples are located in mountain terrain and can double as ski lodges in winter time when there is less farming activity due to the weather.
Farmstays are very popular in Australia, and to a lesser extent New Zealand, too and though many are on those classic Aussie outback sheep stations, you’ll also find some smaller farms and vineyards taking in guests too especially in such places as Margaret River and Swan Valley near Perth in Western Australia and the Hunter and Kangaroo Valleys of New South Wales. You can read guides to both Farm Stays in NSW and Farmstays near Perth for example at FarmStayPlanet.
There are quite a few farmstays listed in the USA as well but the growth of the industry there has so far been quite weak. It’s a little more popular with Canadians it seem though and British Columbia particularly is a favored destination for such rural tourism.
With the huge popularity of glamping these days it will be interesting to see if agritourism can reach the same levels of popularity in the coming years, especially in the U.S., but for now it is still seen as a niche pursuit though one which offers a nicely alternative combination of vacation and educational experiences.