Why travelers across Europe are trading five-star hotels for luxury farmhouses

Imagine the scene. Your day begins with a leisurely breakfast of freshly laid eggs while admiring the flower gardens and pastoral scenes of grazing animals. Then you can relax by the pool for a few hours or take a leisurely stroll through an olive grove or wildflower meadow. As the sun sets, your attention turns to dinner, the ingredients for which have always been harvested from the surrounding fields.

Who would not be seduced by the promise of this bucolic happiness? Except these days you’re more likely to slip between perfectly laundered linen sheets than lie on a bed of straw, and your day might also involve a yoga session, a spa treatment using a holistic brand worship such as Susanne Kaufmann and a visit to the garden to learn about permaculture.

The pool will be of endless variety – or better yet, free-form, chemical-free, and aquatic-plant-cleaned – and your organic farm-to-table meal will be washed down with your host’s own brand, pressed by hand, extra virgin olive oil. Welcome to the rural redux: the rebirth of the “agriturismo”, or stay on the farm.

Farm stays with five-star frills

Agritourism has come a long way since its origins in 1960s Italy, where farmers began welcoming tourists into their homes in a bid to both earn extra income and turn the tide according to – war of migration from the country to the city. Captivating a whole generation of travelers eager for a more authentic experience, a new vacation phenomenon has been born.

There are now over 20,000 agriturismi across Italy, preserving livelihoods and historic buildings across the country. Bound by official regulations set by the Italian Ministry of Agriculture and specific rules from region to region regarding the amount of produce served to customers who must come from the region, the farmhouses offer comfort ranging from the simplest to the most sophisticated.

Like many great ideas, the farm stay flourished by keeping the original ethos, but in a more relaxed way and with the addition of five-star frills. But what all farm stays have in common is a celebration of life’s simple pleasures, a slower pace, and a return to nature.

Opened in April, the Oasyhotel in the Tuscan Apennines is Italy’s newest iteration: 16 custom-built eco-cottages nestled in a 2,500-acre nature reserve managed by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), where wild boars and wolves are on the loose. This is rural tourism on a lavish scale, one of the luxuries being remoteness. With its own farm and food label, the hotel’s revenue also supports the work of the Dynamo Foundation, which provides vacations for underprivileged and terminally ill children.

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