With increasing pace we have begun to covet and adopt a more back-to-basics lifestyle, be it with regards to our diets, a detachment from technology, or making an effort to spend more time outdoors.
All three can be uniquely combined during a stay in one of Tuscany’s characteristic farmhouses, a relatively new style of vacationing otherwise known as agriturismo (a combination of the Italian words for ‘agriculture’ and ‘tourism’).
Agriturismo’s roots can be traced back to the fifties, when small-scale farming started bringing in less money, forcing farmers to move out of rural areas in search of work – and abandoning their farms in the process. By 1985, laws were introduced encouraging the restoration of many of these older farmhouses, and a new way to holiday was born.
Tuscan farmhouses attract people from all over the world, not just Italy. They allow one to experience some of the unique aspects and benefits of a slower, countryside life. Indeed, so alluring have they become, that they have even been featured on UK TV in a series which follows a group of Brits living and working in an 18th-century Tuscan farmhouse as they look for a permanent change of scenery.
Though not everyone who wants to experience a slower, more organic lifestyle has to take as drastic a move. Many rely instead on family-run farmhouses to help them take full advantage of their surroundings, if only for a while.
At Villa di Campolungo, for example, visitors have the chance to cook traditional dishes, take part in local area wine tastings, or walk through some of the estate’s 1,800 olive trees, all in the spirit of spending time taking part in life’s more uncomplicated pleasures.
“It’s very simple,” says Silvia Cantini, who has run the villa since the family purchased the (at the time) run-down building 12 years ago. We offer “clean air,” and “beautiful landscapes.”
Close to towns and cities such as Fiesole, Pisa, Siena, and Lucca, guests can easily explore Tuscany’s famous landscapes. Silvia also offers guests a real taste of zero kilometer Tuscan life. Literally. “We offer real, local breakfasts made of local products,” Silvia says. “We search in the area and we try to pick the best local products (like pecorino). For some people, it is important.”
If the artisanal cheese is not enough, guests of Villa di Campolungo can also indulge in some of Silvia’s other homemade delicacies: “I bake my bread every day, my focaccia. I bake it every day for the guests. [There is also] homemade jam, homemade cake … ". The family also make their own olive oil.
And the homemade goods that await guests every day? They come with an important, yet sometimes overlooked feature, the atmosphere.
Says Silvia, “we are having breakfast and people are chatting together, [people from] France, Germany, from the US. Last week, we had people from the UAE. People, I think they like to interact together. Yesterday we had a cooking class [for] three hours then they had dinner with what they had prepared all together. This morning, they were all really happy. This is the kind of lifestyle.”
--Zaineb Al Hassani