I like to mix my time in Italy between big cities small towns, and places more remote; enter the Agriturismo. A vacation farm-stay.
Agriturismi (agriculture + tourism) were defined by Italian lawmakers in 1985. Many small, rural farms were having trouble making ends meet and hosting guests provided supplemental income to farmers. In some cases, the government provided the funds necessary to restore old buildings. Not only does the tourism help the farmer, it helps the small towns close by that probably would be over-looked by most tourists. In my opinion, these towns are the hidden gems of Italy.
Agriturismi are located everywhere in Italy and come in all different shapes and sizes. Some are more rustic, some are so luxurious you wouldn't even know you are on a farm. Some will offer you bed and breakfast while others will offer all meals. Check out the website agriturismo.it for a concise listing of all agriturismi in Italy. You can be sure to find someplace that matches your interests.
The last agriturismo I stayed at was in Tuscany in the area called Maremma. This is quintessential Tuscany. Unlike northern Tuscany which is more hilly and forested, the Maremma holds the sweeping landscapes of cypress-lined drives. This particular farm grew organic grapes and made wine. Good wine. Really good wine. Wine that cost 5 Euro a bottle. ( I bought a case!)
The accommodations were lovely! Stone buildings with en-suite rooms and air-conditioning; nice for a Minnesotan during an unseasonably warm Tuscan summer. The vistas from the 2 outdoor pools were stunning and the smell of lavender along with the hum of bees added to the ambiance. This was la dolce vita!
It was a short walk to the nearby sleepy village that came alive in the morning while residents sipped espresso and ate brioche and then again in the early evening. Squares or piazzas in Italy is where it all happens. In this particular town, the young kicked around soccer balls while older residents participated in lively conversations. I sat at an outdoor table drinking the best apperitivo I've ever had. A gin and tonic, with basil. Of course!