Italian Farmhouses Push to Revitalize Tourism in Pandemic's Wake

An association of Italian farmers warns that the sector could lose €1 billion in 2020. As the lockdown eases, farmhouses are finding new ways to safely attract tourists.

Jun. 9, 2020
By Paolo DeAndreis

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The famous farm­houses that dot Italy’s pic­turesque land­scapes from Puglia to Liguria have expe­ri­enced an 80 per­cent drop in vis­i­tors due to the COVID-19 pan­demic.

Home to some of the most renowned Italian olive oils and wines, the pop­u­lar tourist des­ti­na­tions have been hard-hit by mea­sures to curb the spread of the disease.

If we don’t turn the tables now, the sec­tor risks los­ing €1 bil­lion in 2020.- Colditerri, the Italian farm­ers’ association

Now that those mea­sures are being relaxed, farm­houses and local author­i­ties are team­ing up to bring Italian and inter­na­tional tourists back to these tra­di­tional hol­i­day destinations.

The farm­ers asso­ci­a­tion Coldiretti, mean­while, has warned that the dis­ap­point­ing spring­time fig­ures for agri­tourism may just be the tip of the iceberg.

See Also: COVID-19 Updates

Italy is home for 24,000 farm­houses spread across all of its regions,” Coldiretti said in a state­ment. They offer more than 250,000 beds and more than 440,000 seats in restau­rants.” In 2019, 14 mil­lion vis­i­tors were booked by the farm­houses, with 59 per­cent com­ing from abroad.

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If we don’t turn the tables now, the sec­tor risks los­ing €1 bil­lion ($1.1 bil­lion) in 2020,” Coldiretti said.

Farmhouses pos­sess use­ful char­ac­ter­is­tics when it comes to virus pre­ven­tion, com­pared to many other restau­rants, hotels and hol­i­day venues, the group pointed out.

Farms can count on wide spaces in the open for their restau­rant activ­i­ties, do not usu­ally offer many beds for vis­i­tors stay­ing overnight and are prob­a­bly the best and eas­i­est places where safety mea­sures can be applied — where fam­i­lies can be safe out­side of their own home,” Coldiretti said.

Their unique char­ac­ter­is­tics could play a cru­cial role in the relaunch of tourism in the lands of olive oil and wine, which is why many agribusi­ness oper­a­tors have applied to be included in a new gov­ern­ment web­site ded­i­cated to Italian agritourism.

The direc­tory is man­aged by the Italian Ministry of Agriculture and pro­vides infor­ma­tion about the char­ac­ter­is­tics, ser­vices offered, his­to­ries and safety mea­sures taken by each of the farmhouses.

Farmhouses play a cen­tral role because they pro­mote tourism in their area, like in nearby small and ancient vil­lages, which is where 92 per­cent of the Italian agri-food spe­cial­ties are born,” said Diego Scaramuzza, pres­i­dent of the farm­houses asso­ci­a­tion within Coldiretti, Terranostra.

Scaramuzza man­ages a sep­a­rate farm­house direc­tory web­site, Campagna Amica (mean­ing friendly coun­try­side, in Italian). Not only do the farm restau­rants pro­mote local spe­cial­ties, but they are often the pro­duc­ers of some of Italy’s most renowned gas­tro­nomic products.

The role played by these coun­try houses in the revi­tal­iza­tion of the econ­omy was stated by the Minister of Agriculture, Teresa Bellanova, who has spent a few days actively tour­ing many such venues to bet­ter under­stand how they are cop­ing with the COVID-19 aftermath.

In a tweet, the Minister talked about the beau­ti­ful farm­houses of the south while vis­it­ing Sante Le Muse, in the Puglia region, a farm focused on pro­duc­ing organic olive oil and pur­vey­ing fam­ily holidays.

We had dif­fi­cult months. A farm isn’t some­thing you can just close up,” Fabiana Renzo, owner of Sante Le Muse, told Olive Oil Times. There are ani­mals to care for, fields, trees, and that is hap­pen­ing whether you have vis­i­tors com­ing or not.”

We had to face severe uncer­tainty, had to face costs with­out rev­enues,” she added. But now, with the end of the lock­down, we are receiv­ing phone calls, infor­ma­tion requests and reservations.”

Sante Le Muse pro­duces extra vir­gin olive oil from 700 trees of the local and ancient cul­ti­vars Ogliarola and Cellina. Renzo, like many farm­house own­ers, is now wel­com­ing her first post-COVID-19 guests.

For the upcom­ing sum­mer sea­son, farm­house oper­a­tors are plan­ning a series of new activ­i­ties, tak­ing advan­tage of the space within their vine­yards and olive groves.

In the north­ern province of Bergamo, which was the epi­cen­ter of Italy’s COVID-19 out­break, farm­houses are now pro­mot­ing their farm activ­i­ties while empha­siz­ing their newly imposed safety measures.

Apart from mobile appli­ca­tions to down­load farm­house menus, so as not to touch the tra­di­tional paper restau­rant menu, anti-virus mar­ket­ing ideas also include the farm­ers pic­nic,” which con­sists of hand­ing out a box filled with dis­pos­able table­ware and ready-to-eat local food spe­cial­ties. These can be enjoyed while spend­ing time in the groves with friends and fam­ily – not inside an enclosed space.

Natural dis­tanc­ing, safety and new ideas are the key­words for the post-COVID-19 era for the Italian farm­houses,” Coldiretti concluded.





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