Postcards from Italy

Sicily's Traditional Baglio Farmstays

In the decades since the early 1990's, Italy's countryside has seen a revolution with the explosion of the agriturismo, or farmstay. An agriturismo is a working farm which offers accommodations and/or meals to tourists in rural areas across Italy, and can include hospitality in anything from rustic self-catering farmhouses to full service luxury relais. Conceived as a way to counteract the large scale abandonment of historic farms in post-war Italy by giving rural populations an alternative source of revenue, the agriturismo has been one of the most important evolutions in tourism in Italy in the past half century.

farmstay-sicily-cr-brian-dore(Photo by Concierge in Umbria via Flickr)

Though farmstays dot Italy's landscape, like all things Italian, they differ widely by region. From the wooden alpine baita in the north to Puglia's stately stone masseria, most agriturismi reflect the surrounding rural architecture and local agricultural traditions, so a stay in one can be a unique window into the authentic and rapidly disappearing culture of the countryside.

tenuta-cammarana-ragusa-cr-brian-dore(Photo by Concierge in Umbria via Flickr)

The Sicilian Farmstay

Sicily is no exception, with its own unique variant of the agriturismo known as the baglio. These fortified farms are set far into the Sicilian countryside, surrounded by miles of rolling farmland planted with olive groves on the west side of the island and fruit orchards on the east, and can be difficult to find. That said, on this island where accommodations can be scarce outside the major cities and beach resorts, the baglio is a great way to experience authentic Sicily while staying near some of the island's most famous sights.

farmstay-sicily-cr-brian-dore(Photo by Concierge in Umbria via Flickr)

Your Hosts

As in most Italian farmstays, Sicily's baglio hosts are also the farm's owners, and though they may have centuries of experience in husbandry, most are not trained in hospitality.

The youngest generation have often transitioned to running the baglio from a professional career in anything from law to architecture. Expect a heartfelt, if slightly unpolished, welcome to their family home, which has been often been brought back from a state of complete disrepair with the express purpose of hosting guests. That said, many owners are in fact wonderful hosts, and any shortcomings from lack of experience are more than made up for by their genuine passion for their land and its history.

The Farmhouses

Sicily's baglio accommodations are usually in recently restored farmhouses, and the layout and room configurations can be quirky to accommodate modern additions like ensuite bathrooms, requiring climbing steps or ducking under low doorways. These historic properties are often furnished with family antiques, and there is a charming, if accidental, shabby chic decor to many.

foresteria-planeta-cr-brian-dore(Photo by Concierge in Umbria via Flickr)

The traditional layout of a baglio is a large square building housing the family's living quarters, kitchens, stables, and storehouses built around a central courtyard, with most windows and doors facing inwards. There is usually an imposing arched main entrance into the courtyard, and the largest also include a small church or chapel. Today, a baglio will almost always offer breakfast and dinner, and the cuisine is traditionally Sicilian, prepared with local ingredients from the property's own farm.

The Experience

tenuta-cammarana-ragusa-cr-brian-dore(Photo by Concierge in Umbria via Flickr)

One of the most compelling reasons to stay in a *baglio* in Sicily are the authentic experiences that these unique accommodations offer. On a recent trip, we were treated to a Jeep ride through acres of olive groves, an impromptu lesson in preparing a local dish by a neighbor, an excellent private dinner with a personal chef and white gloved service, wine tastings of local vintners, and a hike through the beautiful Zingaro nature reserve. Though there may still be some rough edges to smooth out, a *baglio* stay can be one of the most unforgettable and rewarding parts of a visit to Sicily.

baglio-dinner-cr-brian-dore(Photo by Concierge in Umbria via Flickr)

Our Recommendations

Baglio La Porta (San Vito lo Capo): a chic and modern luxury property with views of the Mediterranean

baglio-la-porta-cr-brian-dore(Photo by Concierge in Umbria via Flickr)

Tenuta Cammarana (Ragusa): a rustic but elegantly restored farmhouse outside of town with incredibly gracious hosts

scaccia-ragusana-tenuta-cammarana-ragusa-cr-brian-dore(Photo by Concierge in Umbria via Flickr)

Mandrovana (Agrigento): a renovated farmhouse, train station, and winery surrounded by olive groves

mandrovana-cr-brian-dore(Photo by Concierge in Umbria via Flickr)

La Foresteria di Planeta (Agrigento): an elegant winery resort near the beach, known for its excellent cuisine

caponata-planeta-cr-brian-dore(Photo by Concierge in Umbria via Flickr)

Related posts:
Three Unforgettable Sicily Food Experiences
Sicilian Sweets at La Pasticceria Maria Grammatico
Sicily's Cous Cous Fest

Contributor: Rebecca Winke

Concierge in Umbria
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