With humble roots in traditional Italian farming, agriturismo or agrotourism (‘agriculture’ plus ‘tourism’) is now a fast-growing global movement.
For some guests it’s about authentically experiencing different cultures and knowing they’re giving back to the communities where they travel; for others it’s about reconnecting with the soil and learning how to grow, harvest and make regional specialities; whilst others book for a guarantee that their holiday will make them unplug and de-stress. For everyone, there’s food for the soul in beautiful rural settings.
Here’s our pick from those that combine a farm-to-table ethos with stylish accommodation and five star service, all a short (ish) journey from London:
Areias do Seixo, Portugal
On the Costa de Prata, Portugal’s Silver Coast, where sand dunes and pine forest hug the Atlantic ocean, Marta and Gonçalo Alves found the perfect location for their dream tourism venture, Areias do Seixo. “Magical” pops up frequently in descriptions of this charm hotel, which was designed by the architect Vasco Vieirato to work in perfect harmony with its natural surroundings.
Behind the (stark) contemporary architecture, rustic simplicity and luxurious eco-conscious comforts are combined in uniquely tailored rooms, villas and townhouses. Against a backdrop of wild views, chandeliers glisten and blackboards decorated with chalky lines of inspirational poetry distract you from pebble walls, log fires, chairs crafted from driftwood, (sourced at the nearby beach) and trees that grow through the middle of rooms reminding you who was here first. Collectively it all forms a kind of homage to the elements.
You’d easily be forgiven for filling your time here with lazy little lengths of the sleek pool, heated by solar panels between April and October, with interruptions in the spa soaking up rejuvenating treatments, but a colourful range of life-affirming farm-based activities also await guests.
Sign up for the ‘’Hands in the Soil’ activity and you’ll be reconnecting with the land quite literally, as wannabe growers learn how permaculture and agroforestry help to nurture and imitate nature in a bid to create efficient, self-sustaining ecosystems within which all locals – including butterflies, lizards, frogs, bees and birds – have a respected role to play. Wander around the hotel’s lovingly tended gardens and you’ll find members of the kitchen team picking vegetables, herbs, flowers, bulbs, fruits and berries for the daily menu in the restaurant.
Take a tour of the greenhouse and pick lemongrass, verbena, melissa and mint to make health-boosting aromatic afternoon tea. And if you’re feeling energetic and adventurous bicycles await, as do electric bikes, both perfect for exploring the nearby sleepy village and wonderfully wild coastline.
Post sunset entertainment consists of Circle of Fire gatherings hosted by the owners around a campfire with friendly acoustics and wine. Or simply stargaze the nights away under a wondrous sky.
Having travelled around the globe, Frangiskos Karelas decided his favourite place in the world was where he was born. And so it’s in the Peloponnese Greece that Eumelia was planted.
Set in an ancient olive grove, only two hours from Athens but a world away from city life, Eumelia (loosely translated as ‘harmony’ or ‘melody’) is a biodynamic farm and eco retreat, offering yoga and family holidays and tailor-made immersive farm experiences that show ‘how nature wants to feed us and how we can work with her’.
Accommodation doesn’t get much more earth-friendly than Eumelia’s geothermal-powered guest cottages, named after indigenous plants and trees, having been designed to form part of the landscape; every detail from the natural building materials and mineral paint (as used in ancient Greece), to the sustainably-produced mattresses and towels, has been considered for minimum environmental impact and maximum wellness.
More well but also more wise is Eumelia’s hope for every guest, with impressive on-site expertise enabling you to: delve into local gastronomy with cooking classes, learn about organic farming hands-on, pick herbs and almonds, discover how to make soap using the farm’s organic olive oil, or simply raise your bar in meditation, tai chi or photography. Alternatively, surrounded by grape vines and 2,000-year-old olive trees (that you can help to harvest if you visit in the autumn), let the in-house sommeliers guide you through tastings of natural wine and olive oil – “liquid gold” for which Eumelia is a prized producer.