The following laws are currently in force:
- Law Puglia, 22nd May 1985, n. 34 (Interventions in favour of farm tourism);
- Law 22nd February 2006, n.96 (Discipline of farm tourism);
Such laws have regulated farm tourism in an original and independent manner, by defining the goals, the legal nature, subjective and objective requirement and administrative regulations. These special laws exclusively regulate a matter which was previously not regulated by any other law and are therefore the sole point of legislative reference on this subject.
All regulations should be seen in the light of the purposes that the legislator has specified – with great foresight – to support agriculture through the promotion of appropriate froms for tourism in the countryside, in order to:
a) encourage the development and consolidation of agricultural land;
b) facilitate retention of agricultural producers in rural areas through the integration of corporate income and the improvement in living conditions;
c) make better use of rural natural estates and buildings;
d) promote conservation and the protection of the environment;
e) promote local products;
f) protect and promote the traditions and cultural initiatives in rural areas;
g) develop social tourism and youth excursions;
h) foster relations between the city and the countryside;
l) diversify agricultural production with activities compatible with the requirements of environmental protection and the maintenance of the countryside.
The name “agritourism” is exclusively intended for reception and hospitality activities carried out by farmers, also in the form of a profit making business, through the use of their own company, a relationship between the activities of cultivation of the soil, forestry and animal husbandry.
Included among the activities:
a. Offer hospitality in open spaces;
b. Offer meals and beverages mainly consisting of products from the farm and local, including alcoholic beverages and spirits, with preference for local products characterized by the marks PDO, PGI, TSG, DOC and DOCG;
c. Organize recreational, cultural, educational, and sporting activities, as well as hiking and horse riding, aimed at adding value to the area and the rural heritage.
We have therefore, a:
- Subjective requirement: be a farmer, who leads the farming activity. The same person must exercise both farming as well as agritourism activities;
- Objective requirement: agritourism activities must be conducted on the farm using its resources (infrastructure, equipment, production).
So there must be a farm in operation.
The existing farm buildings can be used for agritourism but at the same time this is not obligatory.
It sufficed to make reference to the special administrative discipline in order to confirm the farming nature of argritourism.
The registration onto the regional list of operators of farm tourism is a necessary condition for the granting of municipal operation of agritourism activities.
This authorization is in lieu of any other administrative action.
The farm carries out agritourism activities with a "special permit” issued by the Mayor, which differs from those issued for the hotel business, tourism or public exercise because "the authorization for the exercise of local agritourism activity" is an authorization of public safety.
Under this legal preamble, it is evident that the legislator wishes to use the farm activities for rural development, based on the vocation and resources of each territory where agriculture plays a central role.
Agriculture is no longer considered only in its most productive aspects, but also in its multifunctionality, regardless of the economic size of a farm, which provides a rural area with several development factors: crop production, food processing, the handicrafts and traditional hospitality.
These activities represent a single farm business centred on the professionalism of the farmer and his collaborators.
Agritourism is based not only on the conversion of rural buildings no longer needed for farming, on the landscape, production, typical food and human resources, but also on the action of the development and protection of the environment and land.
This overall enhancement of agricultural resources and land is easily verifiable in agriculture.
Agritourism therefore represents a complete experience that includes in its size and individuality, the centre uniting and leading the activities linked to agriculture and rural areas. Moreover, the same law establishes a precise connection with the farm land.
The agritourism activities can exist only where there is already a farm.
A newly created site or structure cannot be chosen for this activity, as can be done in the restaurant sector or traditional tourism, consistent with planning previsions.
The balancing and development of the region through better use of natural and rural heritage buildings are the purposes for the laws.
In fact, the user who chooses agritourism must find a farm that "hosts" the possibility of using the natural space and has the opportunity to positively influence the rural life.
One must not forget that embedded in the roots of southern Italian culture is the notion of countryside holidays.
Agritourism therefore, is the rediscovery of an all-Italian past: what were once our manors or farms, if not a centre of production, are a place where in addition to farming itself are a centre for other activities such as hospitality, handicrafts, and the processing of agricultural and food products.
It is an economic and productive means of best using the farm’s existing resources.
Agriculture is undergoing a critical period of time as soon we have a dramatic collapse in the number of employed in traditional agricultural tasks.
Rather than a new innovation to resolve these problems and to create a diversification of agricultural activities, the "multifunctionality" of agriculture constitutes the rediscovery of running a farm business, which in the recent past, had already been identified and implemented by country folk wisdom. In the south there are regions that have great potential to offer rural tourism, just think of the beautiful and impressive farms scattered throughout the territory of Puglia, so different from each other so that you can immediately perceive that each played its own role in history over the centuries.
These manor farms are testimony to a Southern civilization that is fast disappearing. Unfortunately most of these farms are in a state of complete abandonment, despite the recovery started and maintained from agritourism.
To make such facilities usable once more is certainly worthy work by the private owners, but should be the duty of Territorial Authorities to encourage the restoration of farms.
Farm tourism is something completely different and alternative, compared to traditional tourism, both for those who run the farms and for those who stay at them, not for what they offer, but for how and where it is offered. The secret and the luck of farm tourism lie in the peculiarities of rural hospitality, which considers the visitor not as a client but as guest in their home. Therein lies the real cultural difference between farm tourism operators and hoteliers or restaurateurs.
People realise this and choose to go there. To conclude, agritourism is actually one of the few activities that, in its aim of social utility, allows the diversification of business activities and could become a real opportunity for development and the creation of jobs in agriculture. Puglia has two main vocations, agriculture and tourism, and the synthesis of both is agritourism.