What is the "agriturismo experience" and is it for you?
The term "agriturismo" has a legal meaning in Tuscany
even though it is sometimes used loosely to refer to any rural
holiday accommodation. An agritourism is a working farm - in
Tuscany invariably a winery and/or producer of olive oil - that
offers accommodation to tourists in the form of whole houses,
apartments or rooms.
These rural vacation rentals are almost always extremely good value for
money. They are usually well-restored - beautifully restored in
many cases, furnished country-style - sometimes with genuine
antiques, often provide a swimming pool and have well-equipped
kitchens or kitchenettes. Even taking into account just the number
of beds, the prices are highly competitive in comparison with
hotels. And a stay out in the Tuscan countryside with a
swimming pool and a magnificent view over
the vineyards and olive groves beats a hotel any time.
Bugs: Agriturismi are in the country - by definition - and therefore you
are bound to encounter what our American compatriots call
"bugs" - not just members of the Hemiptera but insects
in general plus diverse scorpions, centipedes and spiders -
outside and sometimes also inside your accommodation. If you don't
like "bugs", owls, lizards, snakes, porcupines, mice,
wild boars, hares, bats, birds large and small, it could be that
an agritourism is not for you and that you would be happier in a
city or town hotel. If, on the other hand, you would quite like to
get in touch with what used to be "real life" for
everyone, then make an agriturismo your base in Tuscany and have a
Mosquitoes and midges: in summer, at night and especially where
there is standing water (for example, after a few days of rain),
mosquitoes and another biting insect that we can call a midge
become highly bothersome. Window screens are rare because they
impede the circulation of air at night when one cools the house
down by opening the windows. You must therefore take three
precautions: a) use your mosquito net when sleeping; b) at night,
activate an insect repellant of the "coil" type or its
variants - burning candle repellants (these also work well outside
if you're planning a dinner out on your terrace) and electric
socket plug-in units; c) carry a tube of anti-histamine gel and
apply it immediately and liberally if you are bitten. The latter applies
also during the day if you happen to be bitten by a flying ant. All of these items
are readily available and widely used in Tuscany. Citronella
candles can be replaced by a unit that slowly releases insect
repellent from tiny canisters when it is placed under your outdoor dining table.
experience shows that this forms the Bermuda triangle of
mosquitoes for several meters in every direction.
You might also want to make use of an insect repellent if experience has shown that you attract mosquitoes.
Those containing DEET (N,N-diethyl-meta-toluamide) as the active ingredient are often highly effective in repelling biting pests such as mosquitoes and also ticks. Products containing DEET include a variety of liquids, lotions, sprays and impregnated materials (e.g. wrist bands - reported to be
ineffective in scientific tests) and can contain from 4 to 100% DEET, 10 to 30% active
ingredient being effective. "OFF! Deep Woods" (SC Johnson) contains about 24% DEET and works well for 3-6 hours after application. Apply DEET products to
exposed skin only. When applied to skin under clothing, DEET
(like many other chemicals) is absorbed at an increased rate into the body and that's not a good idea. Citronella-containing
skin products (e.g. various Avon creams) are reported to be much less effective. However "Skin-So-Soft Bug Guard Plus" (Avon) contains IR3535 and is good for 10 mins to as long as an hour after application. Vitamin B1 (thiamine chloride), garlic, brewer's yeast and other
plant-derived chemicals have been reported to repel mosquitoes when taken orally but there is no scientific evidence to support these claims.
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Air conditioning: many visitors to Tuscany come from
parts of America where the heat and humidity are such that one cannot
live without air conditioning. They naturally ask whether they will need
air conditioning when they stay in Tuscany. The answer is that you will not need
air conditioning unless you are unusually sensitive to heat or are renting an
attic apartment directly under a roof. Air conditioning is rare in
Tuscany, aside from in large hotels, for three reasons: a) the thick
walls of country houses act as a heat sink so that, except for one
or two days a year, air conditioning is not needed. Normally one
opens the shutters and windows at night to let the cool air in,
and closes both shutters and windows during the day to keep the
heat out; b) the exorbitant cost of electricity makes running air conditioning prohibitively expensive;
c) extremely comprehensive architectural protection laws
prohibit the hanging of air conditioning units from windows, leaving only
the much more expensive and often impractical internal ducted option.
about electricity, natural gas and water supply at your Tuscan agriturismo.
NEVERTHELESS, if you are sensitive to heat or wish to keep
the windows closed at night to keep the mosquitoes out, there are
some air conditioned accommodations available. Here's a link to
air conditioned vacation rentals in Tuscany.
A plea to visitors: although some of the larger estates
might be run by somewhat remote managers, most agriturismi are family farms
operated by their owners. Please realise that these very busy
people are welcoming you into parts of their own homes, that their
relationship with you is therefore not just or even primarily
pecuniary. Their aim is your comfort and pleasure - please be
friendly and responsive in return. The furnishings of your rooms
could well be family heirlooms and at the very least a busy farmer
or his wife has to clean up when you depart. Please don't leave
the place like a pigsty. Finally, on the European continent,
natural gas and electricity cost a fortune. If your apartment is
too hot, turn down the radiators rather than opening all the
windows while leaving the heating going full blast. Please turn off the
lights and air conditioning, if any, when you go out.
Last but not least, please don't fire off ten email enquiries
with the idea of selecting your choice when the replies arrive.
Agriturismi are not hotels. They do not have staff sitting around
and paid to answer emails. After a hard day at work, someone has
to respond to your email in an unfamiliar language. It's quite
dispiriting to answer questions and then never hear from the
sender again. Instead, select the accommodation of your choice,
request your reservation or information, and if there's no
availability or you decide that's not the place for you, send off
your next enquiry.
Tuscany accommodation links
We have divided up our vacation rental links roughly by type of accommodation.
Authentic agriturismi (working wineries) in the Chianti Classico wine territory - click.
Other country and village vacation accommodation in the Chianti Classico wine territory - click.
Villas and luxury hotel accommodations in Tuscany - click.
Vacation accommodations in the Maremma between Siena and the Mediterranean beaches - click.
Accommodations in and near Rome - click.
Villas, apartments and Bed & Breakfast in Rome and the Roman Campagna -
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