Simon Terry, Liz Boulter, Katie Parla, Rachel Roddy, Diana Hubbell, John Brunton, Emiko Davies and Niamh Shields, The Guardian, October 15, 2015
Agriturismo Funghi e Fate, Emilia-Romagna
Whimsical drawings of fate, or sprites, adorning the walls aren’t the only reason this agriturismo has a touch of magic. Its lushly forested surroundings surpass any Under the Tuscan Sun fantasies and while the husband-and-wife team speaks minimal English, their sense of hospitality transcends language barriers. For nearly two decades, Giovanni and Cristina have been welcoming travellers with open arms – not to mention bountiful breakfasts of homemade tarts, cakes and jams from their organic fruit orchards. Bread here comes from the on-site wood-burning oven, while the subtly sweet liqueurs lining the shelves come from the neighbours. A modest drive from Parma’s mythical charcuterie, Ferrara’s cappellacci di zucca (stuffed pasta with pumpkin, amaretti cookies, brown butter and sage), Modena’s honeyed vinegar, and Bologna’s silken tagliatelle, the farm’s location offers ample diversions for visiting gourmands. While the hosts are always happy to suggest hidden local spots for dinner or arrange, say, to watch wheels of Parmigiano-Reggiano being made, make some time to soak in the bucolic splendour of the farm itself. When mushroom season comes, the woods teem with porcini, chanterelles, black trumpets and other prized funghi. Guests come from all over for foraging tours led by the aptly named Giovanni Cantarelli (“chanterelles”) and return bearing baskets of mycological gold.
• Doubles from €100 B&B, funghiefate.com
Agriturismo Corte d’Aibo, Emilia-Romagna
Autumn in Emilia-Romagna means wine, truffles, mushrooms and chestnuts. After the heat, we eat. And at the Agriturismo Corte d’Aibo, about 25km west of Bologna, you eat very well at any time of the year, but particularly now. Corte d’Aibo is an organic farm and vineyard set in the Apennine hills. The views are spectacular as is the food and wine. The vineyard produces six reds and six whites, all made with grapes from its own yards. Try a bottle of the ridiculously underrated (and cheap) pignoletto with your lunch and then sample the others on a tour of the cellar. The menu mixes local specialities such as tagliatelle with ragù, and risotto with truffles and Parmigiano-Reggiano with more creative main courses, such as pork with peach sauce. The vegetables come from the garden next door and the digestivi are homemade. You can clear your head in the “biolake” swimming pool or rest in one of the 12 bedrooms.
• Doubles from €55 B&B, +39 051 832583, cortedaibo.it
Masseria Il Frantoio, Puglia
Before lunch and dinner every day, Armando Balestrazzi proudly conducts a tour of Masseria Il Frantoio, near Ostuni. He has plenty to be proud of: 4,000 olive trees, many planted by the ancient Romans, pear and carob trees, a 17th-century citrus orchard, a sunny organic vegetable plot and a cooler, scented Moorish-style garden. He and wife Rosalba bought the 500-year-old estate 15 years ago and have turned the main farmhouse and outbuildings – all around a flowery courtyard – into a restaurant and 19-room hotel. Rosalba is an absolute fiend in the kitchen, and her eight-course lunch is a feat worth undertaking. The courses come paired with great local wines and different olive oils to suit different dishes. A typical meal might include: pizzelle (puffy fried pasta discs a little like Indian puris) with fresh tomato sauce, courgette and prawn fritters, local half-metre-long green beans with queen tomatoes and grated ricotta salata, baked goat’s cheese with saffron and pear jam, homemade laganelle pasta with courgettes and carrots, baked lamb with potatoes, garden salad with fresh almonds and rose petals, and lemon tart. But don’t panic – those with smaller appetites can request a four- or six-course meal instead.
• Doubles from €120 B&B, lunch or dinner with wine, water, liqueur and coffee, eight/six/four courses: €60/€50/€40pp, +39 0831 330276, masseriailfrantoio.it
Le Campestre, Campania
After decades in Belgium, the Lombardi family returned to their native Italy where they have teamed their passion for their rural ancestry with their exposure to northern European sustainability. Their organic Agriturismo Le Campestre is a working farm with rooms and a restaurant. Deep in Campania’s Alto Casertano region, Le Campestre showcases the beauty and nature of this pristine area just north of Naples and the Amalfi Coast. The Alto Casertano is known for olive oil, buffalo and sheep cheese, and rustic breads. These and other delicacies fill the table at Le Campestre at breakfast, lunch (€30), and dinner (€25). Meals are served on a terrace overlooking the adjacent valley and mountainous slopes. Guests stay in Le Campestre’s simple rooms and take part in the farm’s activities, such as harvesting olives and other produce. It also offers cooking classes and guests can learn to make Conciato Romano, an ancient cheese that has been revived at the Lombardi family farm.
• Doubles from €80 B&B, +39 0823 878277, lecampestre.it
Bio Agriturismo Valle Scannese, Abruzzo
Photograph: Silla Mauro
Gregorio Rotolo is unmistakable, with his bear-like stature, salt-and-pepper beard, bulbous nose and knitted hat perched on the back of his head. His superb, renowned cheese is unmistakable, too: rounds of aged pecorino, flat slabs of aromatic stracchino, tender ricotta each with a distinctive silver-and-green sticker. Go in search of both near Scanno in Abruzzo, where Gregorio and his extended family have a biodynamic farm, more than 1,500 sheep and an agriturismo. The location is tremendous, on the edge of the Abruzzo national park, high among forest-cloaked mountains etched with streams, where rock and pasture rich with wild herbs are juxtaposed giving us some clue as to why the milk, and cheese, is so good. The family-run, 17-room, agriturismo is the best of its kind: welcoming, well-run, extremely comfortable and the food is simply excellent.
• Doubles from €70 B&B, +39 0864 576043, vallescannese.com
BeLocal scheme, Piedmont
Angela Giaccone and guests at her home. Photograph: John Brunton
Piedmont, capital of the Slow Food movement, is renowned for barolo wine from the vineyards of the Langhe and the fragrant white truffles of Alba, but a new project, BeLocal, is about to open the door of the less-well-known Alta Langa region. Here, the vine monoculture is replaced by grazing cattle, cereal and vegetable farms, wild forests and plantations of hazelnut trees, which produce the key ingredient in Nutella. The concept is simple: villagers sign up as hosts for the day, giving tourists a chance to experience community life with a local family. In the isolated village of Albaretto della Torre, the wonderful 80-year-old Signora Angela Giaccone begins by showing visitors round her immaculate stone cottage, before taking them on a tour of the farmyard and then into the vegetable gardens where everyone starts picking aubergines, courgettes and pumpkin for the traditional fritto misto alla piemontese. While Angela prepares the vegetables, Luca, the English-speaking guide, takes the small group for a trek through a nearby wood, looking for wild mushrooms. The fritto misto is something else, as we all join in dipping vegetables, veal sweetbreads, lamb chops, sausages, chicken and sweet semolina dumplings in beaten egg yolks and breadcrumbs which Angela fries up into a feast. The day ends with Angela serving the famous rich, chocolate Piedmont dessert, bunet.
• €45pp for a full day, two-night accommodation packages from €160pp, booking-experience.tartufoevino.it
Podere il Casale, Tuscany
Photograph: Emiko Davies
Live out your Tuscan-farmer dream in the picturesque area of Pienza, long known as the home of Tuscany’s favourite cheese, a mild and soft pecorino. Artisan cheesemaker Ulisse Braendli gives lessons on how it’s made at his organic farm, where the animals are raised, milked and all the cheese magic happens. Finish off with a tasting of the farm’s cheeses, chestnut honey and homemade spelt bread, all against a sweeping backdrop of the Val d’Orcia valley and Pienza town winking at you from a distance. Truffles go well with it, too; you can even hunt for them on the farm’s property. Then pitch your own tent (or camper van) overlooking the valley and sleep under the stars.
• Camping from €26 for two people, podereilcasale.com
Agriturismo Caniloro, Abruzzo
Around a 20-minute drive from the Adriatic coast, this agriturismo is perfect for the food obsessive looking for a warm authentic experience. Everything the owners serve is made on the farm, even the flour, which is hand-milled from their own grain. The food is typically regional, including charcuterie and sausages made in house from the farm’s own pigs and regional dishes like rabbit and potato stew, all served with their own wines. Tiny Nonna Antoinietta will teach you how to make spaghetti alla chitarra and pizza scima (“stupid” pizza, where the dough is made with wine instead of water). Accommodation in three bedrooms and an apartment is basic and homely, like staying with your own nonna.
• Doubles from €30pp B&B, +39 087 250 297, facebook.com
Pensione Tranchina, Sicily
Marisin Tranchina is not the sort of person you expect to find running a pensione near Palermo. Tall, chatty and Chinese, she grew up in Panama (hence her good English) and met Salvatore when he was working over there. Nearly three decades ago, she breezed in to the fishing village of Scopello and together, she and Salvatore took over his father’s inn on the piazza. Today it is a foodie mecca, with 10 simple, great-value rooms. Breakfasts feature different homemade jams every day, bread still warm from the bakery next door, and their own olive oil to dip it in. But it is the set four-course dinners that get people talking: there’s no choice and the menu changes every day. There’s not even much point asking in the morning what might be for dinner: it will depend on what Salvatore’s fishermen friends have caught out at sea that day. Highlights for me were pasta with trapanese pesto (made from tomatoes and almonds), and whole sea bream baked in a salt crust. This is truly fresh fish: if the prawn boat’s late, the fat crustaceans for your main course may well arrive in the kitchen while you’re enjoying your antipasto.
• Doubles from €72 B&B, half-board (compulsory in summer) from €55pp, pensionetranchina.com
Agriturismo Pirapora, Calabria
Set in the hills above the seaside village of Zambrone, this is a working farm with 10 simple rooms, ideal for couples or families, with spectacular views of the Tyrrhenian coast, the gulf of Lamezia Terme, and beyond to Sicily’s Aeolian Islands. As appealing as its proximity to – and views of – the sea may be, it is Pirapora’s idyllic setting in a region rife with biodiversity that attracts a loyal clientele, who returns year after year. The farm showcases Calabria’s seasonal bounty and serves meals made from ingredients culled from the surrounding fields. Guest may join in planting and harvesting produce and, depending on the season, may pick apricots, figs, pistachios or peppers, all of which are served fresh or preserved for winter consumption. Visitors arriving in the late summer or early autumn can take part in the grape or olive harvest and, all year round, are welcome to feed the pigs, rabbits, goats and chickens.
• Prices from €58pp half board, pirapora.it
This article originally appeared on guardian.co.uk
This article was written by Simon Terry, Liz Boulter, Katie Parla, Rachel Roddy, Diana Hubbell, John Brunton, Emiko Davies and Niamh Shields from The Guardian and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.