My first impression of Croatia was a morning in Dubrovnik, which, along with stunning views from the wall path surrounding the city, involved souvenir shops, overpriced restaurants and swarms of people. Later that day, after a two-hour drive north, I was picking figs with my sister and a 20-something Croatian in the middle of a small village; my bags were still unpacked.
Through our travel guide, we had found this family-owned and -run agritourism farm called Villa Solo. I was about to learn that by staying at an agritourism farm you get past a place’s small talk and first impressions. It envelops you as a local, particularly if you get off the beaten tourist path.
What Is Agritourism?
Agritourism is short for agriculture tourism and typically means a visit to a farm, ranch or vineyard. Many people know this form of travel as agriturismo, as it is called In Italy, where it has grown in popularity so much that it has started to become commercialised there. That’s why I recommend experiencing this way of traveling with a hop across the Adriatic Sea to Croatia, where it hasn’t become as mainstream and you have an opportunity to really immerse yourself in the way of the land and get to know the locals who make that land their home.
Agritourism accommodation is usually right on someone’s farmland, sometimes even in the landowner’s actual home. The hosts are opening up their home and way of life to you, so you can have a memorable experience. It’s very important to be cordial, respectful and open to different types of customs.
What to Expect at an Agritourism Farm
My three-night stay at Villa Solo was full of pleasant and welcome surprises, such as being whisked away within two minutes of stepping foot on the property for fig picking, an activity which came as a result of my comment that I’d never had a fresh fig before. Generally speaking, food was one of the best surprises – fresh fish; goat’s milk fresh from the animal we visited; homemade wine, cheese on platters offered morning, afternoon and night; meats cured on the premises; and many other delectable dishes.
We spent a lot of time conversing with the family at dinner every night. We learned about the way the father and son divided their time between jobs in the city and farming their part of land shared with the other people who live in the village. For example, where we picked the figs, there were over a dozen fig trees on the lot, each belonging to different families. Each family knows exactly which tree belongs to which family. We were also introduced to beach and bar spots only the locals know about.
Three Tips for a Great Agritourism Experience in Croatia
1. Get off the beaten path. Touristy places like Dubrovnik, Hvar and Brac deserve a visit, but you should shoot for agricultural immersion in a town or city you’ve never heard of. You’re more likely to participate in the day-to-day life of the locals in the way that it typically occurs.
2. Mind your manners. You’re in someone’s home. As with most accommodations, good owners are there to make sure you enjoy yourself, but unlike in a hotel, you can’t demand a new room if you’re not pleased with your current one, and you can’t order off of a full room-service menu. Go with the flow and be adaptable and you’ll encounter new foods and experience new activities that will make for wonderful travel memories.
3. Ask questions. Whether it’s a question about why your hosts decided to open their farm up to agritourism or a request to help them pick vegetables for dinner that night, ask it. The owners are probably happy to answer and accept a helping hand. They wouldn’t have opened up this type of business if they were shy or didn’t want to share their way of life with strangers.
My time at Villa Solo in Croatia created some of my favourite travel memories – and it can for you as well. Next time you visit the country, leave the islands behind and venture into some of the lesser-known areas for hearty, fulfilling travel experiences.