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Come to Palazzo Conte Federico!
The farm houses and estates on this page are great but for something different in Palermo try Palazzo Conte Federico. You'll be the guest of a count and countess in the medieval ambience of an aristocratic palace in the heart of the old city.

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Guest Farms & Country Retreats (Agritourism)
Bed and breakfasts in the country during every season

Related pages: Top 12 DestinationsTravel IdeasThe CountryRestaurantsBed & BreakfastsVillas

PastoralIt's something of a cross between a country inn and a farm - a charming rural alternative to commercial lodging or even a cottage (villa) rental. Agriturismo, a country bed and breakfast, is an Italian trend popularised during the last twenty years by the owners of small farms or, in some cases, equestrian establishments. Quality varies widely; all "agritourism" farms are certainly not created equal (be careful to avoid possible pitfalls). That said, the best are truly exceptional experiences. Our favourites are the castle-like settings of estates once owned by noble families, though some less grandiose establishments are charmingly rustic. A few exceptional farm house estates and villas are listed on this page.

Agriturismo isn't "tourism" in any conventional sense. (Official guidebooks translate the term "farm house resorts," which is perhaps more precise, though it sounds strange, and "ecotourism" would not be very accurate.) The quality of the farm you choose depends on several important factors. The guest rooms are important, naturally, but the common areas (atria, courtyards, dining rooms, gardens) equally so. Even the region, because the mountainous parts of Sicily are usually more interesting than flat fields or orchards, and because it's important to be reasonably near sights and attractions. (Yes, you'll have to rent a car.) Farms that are family-operated, with the owners present, usually offer the best experience. There's nothing more unsatisfying than a guest farm with mediocre service and atmosphere because it's run by hired hands instead of dedicated people passionate about their efforts. That's the key to almost every success we've seen in this field.

There may be a pool, but don't presume this. Accommodations usually aren't too Spartan, and you may even have a chance to visit wine making or cheese making facilities; other "aziende" raise fruits, vegetables or livestock. Most of these "aziende turistiche" are working farms or estates located near small towns; others are more remote, so you may have to drive some distance into the country to reach your retreat. Some guest farms are located amidst olive groves or grain fields, while others are set in lush woods.

The food, based on the local cuisine, is usually excellent. The smaller retreats are run by families and host just a few guests at a time --rarely more than twenty-- so the ambience is that of a small country hotel. Or even a medieval monastery, a baglio (like a castle courtyard or "bailey" without the towers) or an old mill; Sicilian agriturismo takes many forms. To really enjoy the experience, plan to spend at least two nights. You might even use the guest farm as a base for excursions to interesting places.

Springtime is beautiful in Sicily, but heating is expensive here, so April and May are better than February or March if you want to ensure that your stay at a guest farm will be as warm as your reception. Many owners heat the rooms only at night, if at all.

Some owners are a bit "montati" (arrogant about pricing) when it comes to rates. Make sure you check carefully to see if breakfast and lunch or dinner is included in the prices listed, and if there are seasonal rates (summer costs more). Staying at a guest farm is a great experience, but it shouldn't cost as much as a five-star hotel.

Our experience is that websites and books listing numerous guest farms offer too little editorial review to be reliable, though they may be a good point of reference to begin your quest for the right one. Unfortunately, logistical and financial factors preclude our listing numerous guest farms on this page, but they're not too difficult to find on the internet.

To find a guest farm, try a search on Google with the terms agriturismo sicilia or sicily agriturismo.

"Agritourism" or "Rural Tourism?"
Buyer beware! Guest farms are a fantastic experience, but read the description (and look at the pictures) carefully to know what you're paying for. Legally, Italian regulatory authorities distinguish between agritourism (agriturismo) and something called rural tourism (turismo rurale). What's the difference?

"Agriturismo" implies that you'll be staying on a working farm whose cuisine is locally produced. The estate, typically (but not always) family operated, will include orchards, vineyards or livestock, and the meats, wines and cheeses served will be produced on the farm or locally. Some of the best agritourism choices are historic farm houses, mills, monasteries or aristocratic estates converted into lodging areas in the midst of farms, vineyards or cattle estates (ranches).

"Rural tourism," on the other hand, encompasses various forms of rural lodging which differ from agritourism in that they are not actual working farms. Often, they're just bungalows or small apartments constructed in the country for rental, but rural tourism could also describe many historical rural dwellings (houses or barns) which no longer function as the centre of working farms. In some cases, the owners have established working relationships with nearby farmers or livestock owners to make these things available to visitors, thus creating the misleading image of a working farm. They may even sponsor things like cheese making and sell local products (olive oil, wines). In many cases, a new "rustic" estate has been constructed. As the authorities cannot prevent the owners' use of the word "agriturismo" in the commercial name of the firm, trickery is easy. In itself, rural tourism is great, but it should not be promoted as agritourism. Setting up a cheap lodging facility, inn or hotel in the country isn't the same thing as operating a working farm!

Sure, they pay to be here, but we'd recommend these six anyway, spread across Sicily.
Visit Villa Gigliotto!
Stay at the historic country estate of a Sicilian prince in a land of greek goddesses and Norman knights. Charming rustic suites, great cuisine, swimming pool and splendid scenery in the heart of rural Sicily. Visit our site for more information.
Come stay with us!
Stay at an aristocratic estate in the heart of Sicily's splendid Baroque South-East. Discover the charms of Villa Farlì!
Come to San Leonardello.
Enjoy a delightful stay amid citrus groves on a charming farm near the coast just outside Catania, conveniently located near Taormina and Etna. Visit our site for details.
Visit Ruvitello!
Stay (and relax) at a working farm in a scenic valley below Mount Etna, just minutes from Catania. Visit our site for more information.
Visit Tarantola!
Stay at a working winery near Alcamo in the hills of Sicily's enchanting wine country. Visit our site for more information.
Visit Rosa dei Venti!
La Rosa dei Venti is more than a bed and breakfast or hotel. It's a unique choice for a relaxing home holiday in a healthy rural setting in Sicily's heartland. Best rates guaranteed. Book Now!


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