When traveling in Italy there are many choices for where to stay. We’ve found that it’s less stressful and more economical to stay in one place for a week at a time. We like to find an apartment or an agriturismo so we can have more space to relax and perhaps even a kitchen for making a few meals.
In Sicily, we found a wonderful agriturismo in the southern town of Santa Croce di Carmerina, between Modica and the Mediterranean Sea. Malavilla has a few one bedroom apartments and a small stone cottage with two bedrooms. We chose the cottage, which has a large kitchen and a lovely patio with a view of the green hillsides and the sea in the distance.
The best part of staying at an agriturismo is the opportunity to meet the owners and learn more about your surroundings. Bettina runs the farm with the help of her son, Ranieri, who lives with his family nearby. They’ve both given us lots of tips on what to visit in the area as well as what to enjoy around the the farm. Ranieri took the time to show us how to find wild asparagus for our pasta. It’s smaller than the asparagus that you find in the U.S., but it’s very tender and tasty. Bettina showed us what fruits to pick (oranges and lemons) and provided us with the farm’s delicious olive oil and her homemade mermelada and an apple butter. She also made a fantastic caponata that we enjoyed with some of Bob’s pasta one night.
The farm has chickens and resident cows, a friendly yellow lab named Rocco, and mellow cats. The land is lush with olive and almond trees surrounded by grassy fields and beautiful stone walls that separate it from the other farms in the distance. It’s a great place to relax and listen to the birds and other animal sounds.
If you speak some Italian and want to practice a bit more, an agriturismo is a good choice. There is always more time to chat and you can end up learning more history of the area and some new vocabulary. If you have several conversations, you’ll eventually talk politics, which is always interesting.
The difference between a B&B and an Agriturismo is that the family is living and working on the land. This gives the visitor more opportunities to learn about the area and get to know the hosts. Besides getting tips on what to visit, you learn about the family and daily life in the country. Depending on what work is being done, you may get involved or not.
Although we took an excursion most days, we usually had some morning time to visit with the family. Each time, we learned something new and we shared stories. We could easily have stayed another week and had plenty to do. We didn’t spend as much time in the town of Santa Croce di Carmine because it was filled with people celebrating the feast of San Giuseppe. We joined the crowds to see the parade with the statue of San Giuseppe being carried through the town, but we didn’t party until 2 a.m. with the rest of the locals.
Even though our agriturismo was the perfect spot to sit back and relax, we were surrounded by wonderful Baroque cities that we had to visit. We also took a day for Agrigento, a large archeological site, only two hours away. That’s the problem with Sicily—it has so much to see. But, it’s still worth it to stay on a working farm and get to know a Sicilian family. The hospitality here is so amazing and it’s something everyone should experience.
Below are some pics of our wonderful hosts: 1. Ranieri giving tips to Ruth 2. Ranieri and Bob
signing the contract
for a future construction project.