Olive oil harvesting, mountain biking through a chestnut forest and reconnecting with nature
Riding on a coach through Tuscany some 15 years ago on my first trip to Italy, I was amazed at the number of signs pointing to agroturismo estates hidden deep among the olive trees.
Living in Greece, whose diverse array of top-quality agricultural products are highly sought after throughout Europe, I have long been wondering why there are so few agrotourism retreats to which hard-working, stressed-out urbanites, such as myself, can retreat for a few days of reconnecting with nature.
Thanks to the formidable efforts of a number of hard-working souls, in recent years we have seen a handful of agrotourism and ecotourism havens open up on in remote mainland and island locations where guests can get their hands dirty and harvest olives, feed farm animals and learn how to bake traditional regional specialties.
But it’s not simply about breathing some fresh country air into city-weary lungs or picking a few olives. There is something magical about spending time on the land, waking up to see a gentle mist hanging in the air above hundreds of olive groves that stretch as far as the eye can see. The sound of passing cars and motorbikes whizzing past frantically was replaced by the chirping of birds.
Even the seaweed-filled futon-style bed, fashioned by Greece’s outrageously successful Coco-mat, I slept on literally grounded me; so much so that I had difficulty extricating myself from it each morning. Spending four surprisingly warm and sun-filled November days at the Eumelia Organic Agrotourism Farm & Guesthouse in the heart of the Peloponnese’s Laconia province was utterly transcendental. This is what it means to be down to earth.
Eumelia, an ancient Greek word which means melody or melodious language, is situated near the village of Gouves and feels like it is in the middle of glorious nowhere and definitely a million miles for urbanity. Yet, it is not only a perfect choice for those who want to reconnect with the earth and its powerful energy and learn about ecological farming, but also an ideal base from which one can explore the rich culture, dramatic landscapes and long history of Laconia.
Close to ancient and modern-day Sparta, the mystical Byzantine churches of Mystras, the rock castle town of Monemvasia and rugged Mani, as well as postcard-perfect port towns like tiny Limeni and gorgeous beaches, the choices are limitless. And if you’re up for some adventure, companies like X4 Guide offer excellent off-road and mountain bike tours of the mountain range of Parnonas.
“We have a weather god here,” insists Frangiskos Karelas, the ever-smiling owner-operator of Eumelia. And he wasn’t kidding. While friends informed us that it rained buckets in Athens, we enjoyed steadily balmy temperatures of around 17C throughout our stay.
Take a look at what we saw and got up to while we were there. More details soon…