Italy: 6 Ways to Spend the Night
Farmstays, villa rentals, mountain refuges. Six ways to immerse yourself in the real Italy.
Ever wanted an Italian mother (for a night)?
The bed-and-breakfast—Italians use the English phrase—is a growing trend in Italy that didn't really exist 20 years ago. As with B&Bs anywhere else, the experience is made by chatty proprietors, the best of whom take guests under their wing and share tips over breakfast. The B&Bs are distinguished by the details—whether you get to spread a flaking cornetto (croissant) with fig jam or meet the owner's kids, the point is total immersion in Italian living.
Our pick In the heart of postcard-perfect Ferrara, one block from the main piazza, Adele Orlandini has been running Locanda Borgonuovo since 1994. The four graceful rooms, each with its own bath, are filled with a pleasing jumble of antiques. Orlandini takes breakfast seriously, baking homemade tortes and cakes and serving them alongside cheeses, preserves, and fresh fruit in a living room hung with more than 50 works of art. Orlandini is in love with her hometown and eager to help guests experience it, whether that means securing reduced-price tickets to museums or suggesting off-the-radar highlights, such as an unmarked palazzo with newly restored Renaissance frescoes. With such service (and low rates), the Borgonuovo books up far in advance, which is why Orlandini recently acquired three efficiency apartments in the building next door: two mansard suites with rooftop views and a larger flat—all with full kitchens. via Cairoli 29, Ferrara, 011-39/05-32-211-100, borgonuovo.com, doubles from $118.
The perks of pastoral life—minus the work.
Enterprising farmers—18,600 and counting—have begun opening their doors and converting their family farms into agriturismi, inns with usually a maximum of 30 beds each, which generate no more than 30 percent of a property's income. Bucolic settings are a given, but rooms vary widely. You could find yourself in a frescoed Renaissance chamber...or a former barn stall. Rest assured—guests are rarely invited to help out with chores. Instead, your hosts may crack open a bottle of homegrown wine and spend the evening chatting you up on the patio. More and more agriturismi are also opening on-site restaurants, where the tomatoes for a five-course meal are plucked right from the neighboring fields.
Our pick Bernardo Pellegrini, a descendant of a noble Veronese clan, has turned his family's hunting lodge into an organic farm growing grain, soy, vegetables, and fruit. The Azienda Agrituristica Corte Pellegrini, built around 1700, has 11 rooms with plank floors, brightly colored walls, and painted armoires and chairs. The place has all the comforts of a resort—minibars, a swimming pool, Wi-Fi—as well as unique perks: Birdsong is your morning wake-up call, and a herd of goats, a donkey, and a miniature pony await near the creek that burbles down one side of the 74-acre property. Behind the main building, an airy stone-and-brick barn houses a refined dining club (under separate management) that serves four courses of such dishes as asparagus with poached egg or artichoke ravioli with sage butter. via Campalto 18, San Martino Buon Albergo, 011-39/045-882-0122, cortepellegrini.com, doubles $100, entrées from $26.
THE MOUNTAIN REFUGE
Go off the grid, Italian style (you'll eat well).
Italy's Alpine escapes—called rifugi—range from woodland hostels in the low hills of Sicily to the Capanna Regina Margherita, a steeple-shaped wooden structure atop Monte Rosa in the Alps (at 14,957 feet, it's Europe's highest mountain refuge). They all have their own take on Alpine flair, but most share details: cozy bunks with thick blankets, a common room filled with ruddy-faced outdoorsy types, and killer views.
Our pick You don't have to hike two days into the wild to find a mountain retreat that feels gloriously isolated. The Rifugio Nino Pernici is just a few hours from Lake Garda, near Trentino, and only a 20-minute walk from the nearest parking lot, yet it backs up to the high, toothy cliffs of the Ledro Alps. Passing hikers stay in one of 30 dorm-style beds and fill up on hearty meals: polenta with goulash or rabbit stew, grilled pork and sausages with sauerkraut. It's a communal affair—German mountain bikers and Italian hikers sit elbow-to-elbow at long picnic tables, sharing tips as they pass the bread. A 2008 renovation added more windows and fortified the building against cold weather. Now the refuge extends its season into the winter, remaining open on Sundays from October though early March. Bocca di Trat, 011-39/0464-591-462, pernici.com, $55 per person, including breakfast and dinner.