Urbino Project 2011

Multimedia Journalism in Italy

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Italy has long held the secret to creating a relaxed environment where guests can feel like family – agriturismo, farm-based vacations.

FOGLIO, Italy – Check in. Find room. Swipe key. Enter.

From arrival to checkout, the American hotel experience can seem impersonal. But Italy has long held the secret to creating a relaxed environment where guests can feel like family – agriturismo farm-based vacations.

The Renaissance Era church was restored into a restaurant.

Give guests more than a waffle maker and bad coffee for breakfast, and they’ll feel more at home. Give them the chance to ride in a tractor instead of a taxi cab, and they will start to think they’re part of your family.

Hidden amongst the scenic Italian countryside, they keep guests away from the hustle and bustle of city life, yet allow for convenient travel to nearby destinations. To be considered an official agriturismo, a facility must be certified as one by the government. They are subsidized to create a secondary income for farmers who aren’t making enough money from crop sales. Other agritourism vacations range from country homes to resorts, all surrounded by fully functioning farms.

You cannot find this landscape anywhere else.

“You cannot find this landscape anywhere else,” said Giorgia Stocchi, director of one of the Marche region’s most appealing country homes.

And she is right. The Urbino Resort is about eight miles from the historic city of Urbino and boasts a landscape of beautiful rolling hills pocked by fields of bright yellow sunflowers, an aromatic herb garden, grape vines, and pathways lined with vibrant flowers, giving you the chance to see it all.

Unlike an official agriturismo, The Urbino Resort’s main source of income is generated by the rooms they rent out to guests, services offered at their wellness center and the wine and meals served at the restaurant.

“What makes us so special is the history,” Stocchi said. “This resort was a village 300 years ago.”

The wellness center, which offers a number of different massages, bath and relaxation therapy sessions, was restored from an 18th century barn. The restaurant that serves food and wine from the resort’s 890-acre organic farm was once a church, while the beautifully restored bedroom originally housed Renaissance Era artisans and farmers.

“Si, si!” responds the head chef when asked about foods grown on the farm.

Fausto spends his morning at work on the farm.

He explains in rapid Italian that everything he used, the flour to the zucchini, came from the fields of grain, sunflowers, fruits and vegetables viewable from the restaurant’s kitchen window. Their wine comes straight from the vineyard adjacent to the reception foyer, and their honey comes from hives kept a safe distance from the guest rooms.

All of this can be seen by roaming freely through the expansive gardens or simply sitting beside the infinity pool to take in the view.

But a conventional agriturismo offers very different services than massage therapy and poolside cocktails. This more traditional option can be found at Fausto Folgietta’s “Casale nel Tufo” just three miles from Urbino.

As an official agriturismo, Folgietta decided to create apartment style accommodations to supplement his income as a farmer. He began by opening his home to guests for completely homegrown and prepared meals three years ago and eventually built five bedrooms from the finest crafted materials available.

When guests arrive, they will feel a completely different atmosphere than that of a typical hotel or bed and breakfast. Rather than travelers renting a room for the night, they are guests in Folgietta’s home.

Unlike the Urbino resort, the restaurant here is nothing more than a long, sturdy table beneath the vaulted wooden ceiling of the kitchen. The menu consists of seasonal foods prepared by the Folgietta family. And the spa and pool at the resort are replaced by his cattle and tractors.

But being a part of the farm is what makes guests feel at home, and gives them the chance to appreciate the simple life. The serenity achieved from a massage at a resort can be attained by simply experiencing the tranquility of nature at work.

Guests can follow Fausto on his daily activities. With warm hospitality he enthusiastically shows anyone interested around his farm. Regardless of whether you can keep up with his Italian, his smile is welcoming and communication is simple.

Agritourism is a growing industry, and one that is unmatched in giving guests a unique vacation. Leave the cell phone and stress of day-to-day life behind, but be sure to grab the kids. Agritourism provides an alternative get away for every traveler.

“It does not matter- age,” Stocchi said. “Anyone can come here and enjoy this kind of stay; it is beautiful and ideal.”

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