A typical “Made in Tuscany Format” that can show you a new way of living while transforming itself into a profitable investment.
Let’s start with the definition of agriturismo – an Italian term whose proper literal translation in English does not exist. That’s why the word agriturismo is nowadays used by anglophones too.
What is an Agriturismo?
This Italian term comes from the combination of two words: agriculture and tourism. It defines a kind of holiday which combines living in farmhouses in the beautiful Italian countryside with the typical amenities of a resort. The first Agriturismi (plural term) started in the ’70s, and a specific Italian Law to rule this sector was issued in 1985.
The original “philosophy” of the agriturismo was simple, hosting tourists in the farmhouses, allowing and inviting guests to take part in the rural activities of the farm. Guests can also share the food prepared from raw materials inside the farm, learning cooking methods and recipes. The best way to exalt locally produced food is to dine at the same table as the family owners, together with any other guest.
Initially, this new kind of Italian accommodation interested only a niche of tourists coming to Italy from other European countries. People looking for the authentic charm of non-urban areas, the country lifestyle, the related rural traditions, and culinary specialties.
Over the years, agriturismo has become more and more popular. Today it still keeps its original characters, but the format has widened. To include renewed, lovely, and more comfortable accommodations. Because the countryside is not only a place where people work in close contact with plants and animals. But also an environment where you can relax comfortably, having all the amenities needed. What are agriturismos offerings nowadays? In 2022 those leisure structures can sell several different packages with different inclusions, services and prices.
Today the word has been translated, the importance of agritourism has spread throughout the world. We can find agritourism in Missouri, as long as in Germany, Ireland, or South Africa. But let’s get back to the roots in Tuscany, where it all begins.
Agriturismo Toscana: the business is still open!
Toscana is today one of the leading regions in Italy for this kind of holiday. Even Sting has got an agriturismo in the sweet hills of Chianti, not far from Florence. The famous English musician has bought Tenuta il Palagio in Figline Valdarno a few years ago. There he produces wine, serves special pizzas made with local products, and hosts guests from all around the world.
We can find the majority of the agriturismos in Tuscany on the outskirts of beautiful art cities. Some stand out close to outlets, and spas, immersed in the green countryside, with vineyards, olive groves, and even golf courses.
Agritourism ideas and opportunities in Tuscany
Agriturismo offers excellent opportunities for accommodation, which can be rustic, yet elegant. Some of them are built inside villas, like those big, Leopoldine style farmhouses, or even old convents, and castles. luxurious accommodation as swimming pools, often run by the owners’ families.
The accommodation ranges from bed & breakfast rooms to large apartments and suites with facilities, including separate living rooms, kitchens, and private bathrooms.
The prices are generally affordable (averagely range between 50 and 100 euro per night for each guest).
Wine, oil and open-air activities: the importance of experiences in the agriturismo
Agritourism-related structures offer all the amenities and valuable services to make your holidays unforgettable.
Many of them welcome their guests with a range of services related to recreation and leisure: from guided farm tours to wine and oil tasting tours, cooking and riding lessons. Then we can mention golf tournaments, bicycle rental, spaces equipped for children, mountain biking or hiking, and all related to weddings and special events.
Guests can decide what they wish: they can enjoy their privacy or expect to dine nicely at the same table of the family that welcomes you and together with the other guests.
Started from a niche of enthusiast people in its beginnings, today, the rural tourism experience of an agriturismo in Tuscany involves large groups of tourists. It is suitable for all: whole families, couples, groups of friends and whoever looks for nature, good food, tranquility.
Ex-pats and visitors like this type of accommodation. They are mainly British, Americans, Germans, Dutch, Scandinavians. Once they try it, they are so excited about the lifestyle it promotes that many of them are willing to invest and become owners and managers of these structures.
Where can you find the best agriturismo in Tuscany?
An agriturismo is usually active all year round, welcoming guests for weekends and extended periods during the summer holidays. The Tuscan provinces where these activities are most popular are Siena, Grosseto, Florence, and Arezzo. But you can find lovely agriturismos everywhere in the Tuscan countryside, from Val d’Orcia to Casentino, from Garfagnana to Maremma, and up to the Mugelloʼs area.
Agritourism is a new formula to enjoy a holiday, invest your capital, or even change your lifestyle. Indeed, if you are looking for a final relocation in Italy, you may consider buying or taking over the management of a farmhouse or a villa.
Sometimes it can be even more profitable to buy a property to restructure and convert into an agriturismo. Many options are possible to combine business with pleasure.
Let’s be practical and see a couple of good case histories that exemplify the logic of the agriturismo and the choice of investing in this kind of property with all their linked activities.
Agritourism ideas: let’s get into the business
A lesson from Caterina and Franco
In the Chianti countryside, between San Gimignano and Certaldo there is the agriturismo of Caterina and Franco.
This one is what we could define as the stereotype of the agriturismo concept. It was an old ruined farmhouse, and, after a careful renovation and many years of patient work, it has been transformed into an agriturismo.
The owners, Caterina and Franco, are mainly rural entrepreneurs.
Their land extends beyond the garden around their farmhouse and includes 2 hectares of olive groves and 2 hectares of vineyards. Virgin olive oil guaranteed and a prestigious wine production that boasts the Chianti DOCG mark (Controlled and Guaranteed Designation of Origin). At the same time, they restructured their house to accommodate a small number of guests and offer an unforgettable stay.
It is the perfect place for a holiday and suitable for everyone: families, couples, groups, young or old, looking for peace and serenity. You find everything in one place. Caterina and Franco are always available: their wood-burning oven for making bread and pizzas is always working, and cooking their fresh food is a pleasure for them.
A big infinity-edge swimming pool with three depth levels, access steps, fountain, and hydro-massage guarantees total relaxation.
The silence of the forest helps to relax and not think about everyday problems. Children can play in nature’s green or visit sweet friends like Carmela, the donkey, and Ettore, the horse. And then there is the lake for fishing and archery.
If you are one of those who like to sleep late, you can do it in absolute silence and wake up with the birds singing. Those who prefer a cultural holiday, on the other hand, are in the right place because the most beautiful cities of art are nearby.
Florence and Siena, not to mention the small medieval towns in the surrounding area such as San Gimignano, Certaldo, Monteriggioni.
Here you can participate in the evening events and the dinner aperitifs with live music that Caterina and Franco organize every week throughout the summer. You can also book their farmhouse to organize your favorite event, graduation party, wedding, dinners with colleagues.
For 60 years in Tuscany, Giovanni, the owner, moved to Chianti from his native Sardinia, intending to bring a model of agricultural activity based on sheep breeding and pecorino cheese production.
His agriturismo is located about one kilometer from Panzano in the heart of the Chianti area in Florence.
The business comprises two souls that combine in an original formula: hospitality and dairy production.
You will find three apartments, carefully restored in Tuscan style, with an independent entrance and garden, private parking, and a swimming pool. They are adjacent to the main house and host those who want to spend a holiday in the tranquility of the Chianti hills.
At the same time, Giovanni continues his daily artisan production of cheeses, extra-virgin olive oil, and honey. All done “on-site,” as they say: his sheep graze peacefully all day long on the surrounding hills under the watchful eye of experienced Maremma dogs like few others.
Bees find the right environment to donate their precious honey.
The milk milking, storage, and processing occur in the sheepfold and the dairy not far from the farmhouse and the apartments.
All these phases testify to the beauty and the hardness, the pastoral activity, and the creation of dairy products. Guests staying at the reception facility are welcome and can see these productive phases live.
Often groups of tourists arrive here, and the owner’s staff organizes some tastings. School groups often attend the various steps from the raw material to the finished product and … what products!
Giovanni’s ones are the most representative example of zero-kilometer food products that come from a zero km short supply chain.
They are products that come from short-chain organic agriculture and have been awarded organic certification for decades.
The products are for sale here, by the agriturismo itself, or in a shop in the locality of Montagliari, 1 km from Panzano.
Here you can find the entire production of the agriturismo and a selection of Chianti products and wines, again strictly zero-kilometer.
Zero Kilometer food products
The type of trade of agricultural products marketed in the same production area is the so-called “zero kilometers” economy. This term identifies an economic policy that favors local food, as opposed to industrially produced food. A product is “zero kilometers” when it has traveled as few kilometers as possible to get from production to the site of sale and consumption.
Zero kilometer food represents a choice linked to reducing our ecological footprint. It’s all about reducing the environmental impact that the transport of a product causes through various distribution and consumption practices: in particular, the reduction of carbon dioxide emissions (Co2), which increases pollution.
Consuming local products and shortening distances means helping the environment, promoting the regional agri-food heritage, lowering distribution prices, and guaranteeing a fresh, healthy, and seasonal product.
The production and consumption of zero-kilometer food imply a conscious use of territorial resources. It’s an enhancement of the local production and the rediscovery of territorial identities. It also facilitates a direct and socializing relationship between the producer/farmer. There are many opportunities for meeting and exchange between them, thanks to the direct sale of local farmers in the municipal markets and in the frequent fairs and village festivals that enrich the life of the Tuscan villages.
How to open or take over an agriturismo and then manage it?
Whether you want to open an agriturismo or you decide to buy one that has already started, it is crucial to know the aspects that govern its existence and activity.
First of all, let’s remind again what agritourism is.
This term defines the reception, hospitality, and catering activities carried out by agricultural entrepreneurs, combined with land cultivation, animal breeding, and forestry.
What are the laws and regulations for the agriturismo in Italy?
Tuscany is one of the most active regions of Italy in supporting economic activity linked to forms of tourism that enhance the countryside and agriculture. All this happens in harmony with the rural development policies of the European Community.
National laws of the Italian government and local laws of the individual regions rule the agriturismo activity. In Tuscany, its laws are the regional ones of June 23, 2003, no. 30 and 80/2009; BUR Tuscany n. 56 of December 31, 2009)
This new form of tourism makes it possible to enhance the rural, natural, and real estate heritage that often has centuries of history behind it.
All this pursues the aim of protecting the environment and traditional agricultural products, the enhancement of the traditions and culture of rural areas, and the knowledge of food and wine traditions.
The results over time have been relevant with beneficial effects for the Tuscan territories and populations. It has curbed the urbanization trend of the 1950s and 1960s and the dangerous depopulation of the countryside.
The permanence of farmers and agricultural producers in rural areas has allowed new possibilities of economic profitability, in addition to traditional farming activity.
Today, Tuscany is known for the vastness of its artistic heritage and the beauty of its natural landscape. In some areas, such as the Chianti region, Maremma, and Garfagnana, the harmony between the territory and the farmers’ patient work has reached levels of excellence. The agriturismo is now one of the main engines of the local rural economy and is an entrepreneurial formula of which Tuscany is rightly proud.
How to start your agriturismo business
To start the business or take over a real estate property already started up as an agriturismo in Tuscany, what should you know?
Accommodation, catering, and recreation through a farm and its agricultural activities are all initiatives at the service of local communities and for visitors worldwide. It’s fundamental to know some basic notions. First of all:
• the property must be an agricultural farm;
• there must be a close connection between the already existing farm activity and the new agriturismo activity;
• the agricultural activity (determined by the available land extensions, the technical equipment, the housing structures, the variety of cultivation activities) must be economically prevalent to the agriturismo activity;
• the two combined activities must be in compliance with technical, urban, hygienic-sanitary parameters established by law;
• the time taken to carry out the agriturismo activity during the calendar year must be quantitatively more minor than the time used in agricultural activity;
• the annual gross salable production value must always be greater than the income from the agriturismo business.
What are the other assets an agriturismo activity includes?
What it follows is a comprehensive list:
• give hospitality in lodgings or in open spaces destined to stop campers;
• organize tastings of farm products;
• organize recreational, cultural, educational, sports, hiking, and horse-riding activities to enhance the territory and rural heritage;
• sale of products.
Administration of food and meals
• To administer food consumption at the table, you can use farm products, possibly integrated with products from local farms as well as with products of Tuscan origin and certified, with a preference for specific products characterized by the DOP, IGP, IGT, DOC, and DOCG brands or included in the national list of traditional agri-food products;
• it is possible to use complementary ingredients not obtainable in Tuscany and commonly used products of traditional hospitality. The use of essential products for special diets for health reasons is also allowed;
• the use of the domestic kitchen is allowed to prepare the meal, as long as it complies with the requirements for residential homes;
• up to to 12 seats are allowed at the table (12 for lunch and 12 for dinner).
Who can work in an agriturismo?
• The agricultural entrepreneur and his family can be involved in carrying out the agriturismo activity;
• fixed-term, permanent, and partial employees with employment contracts admitted in the farming sector;
• employees are considered agricultural workers according to social security, insurance, and tax regulations. The use of external subjects is allowed only for the performance of complementary activities and services.
How should the buildings be for the agriturismo?
• The buildings or part of them already existing in the property can be used;
• it is not allowed to build new properties for the construction of the agriturismo;
• Interventions on the rural building heritage intended for the agriturismo activities have to use typical construction materials and comply with the places’ typologies and architectural and decorative elements.
What are the hygienic-sanitary requirements of the agriturismo?
• In defining the health and hygiene requirements of the buildings and equipment to be used, the particular architectural and rural characteristics of the buildings are subject to controls.
What are the opening periods of an agriturismo?
• According to periods established by the agricultural entrepreneur, the agriturismo can be open all year round or. Without further communication to the Municipality, it is possible to suspend the reception of guests for short periods.
What are the rates of an agriturismo?
• Each year, by October 31, those who carry out the agriturismo activities must submit a declaration indicating the maximum rates referring to periods of high and low season, which they undertake to practice for the following year.
What is the fiscal discipline for the agriturismo?
Here are some guidelines according to the Italian Law n. 413/91, art. 5:
- The income from the agriturismo activity is considered agricultural income;
- The calculation of the taxable income of the agriturismo considers a flat rate regime, to the extent of 25% of revenues net of VAT;
What are the requirements and obligations necessary if you open an agriturismo?
See the list below. No panic! It’s just a bit of bureaucracy. At the very beginning you may need the help of some local expert, your accountant or even your real estate agent.
- Qualification of Professional Agricultural Entrepreneur with the registration in the regional registry;
- diploma or degree relating to the subject of nutrition or the administration of food and beverages or relating to the agricultural / forestry sector;
- have successfully attended the training course for the administration of food and beverages or the course as an agriturismo operator;
- apply to an Authorized Agricultural Assistance Center for the creation of the UPI (Integrated Productive Income Unit) with the classification “agriturismo”;
- fill in the Single Company Declaration online on the website www.artea.Toscana.it, the agriturismo Report drawn up in the form of a self-declaration will be attached;
- fill in the Declaration of Start of Business online on the website www.suap.Toscana.it
- getting the VAT number;
- registration in the Register of Companies of the Chamber of Commerce
- authorization of the mayor to start the activity.
- authorization from the Fire Brigade;
- authorization for the installation of signs and road signs;
- book of health suitability Health authorization for the premises;
- tax on waste.
A helpful summary of the contents of the law is available on these websites: