Dotted far and wide across every corner of the country, Albanian families are turning their household farms into the perfect place for tourists to unwind and experience a slower pace of life, one almost forgotten by those who live the daily grind in the big cities. The phenomenon dubbed agrotourism is certainly a major highlight of any trip to the Land of the Eagle.
During the reign of communist dictator Enver Hoxha, an emphasis was placed on the state’s self-sufficiency. A rather paranoid man, as evident from the ubiquitous bunkers, Hoxha had a strong desire to ensure that his people relied on no other than their own. This meant establishing adequate food supplies and, as such, significant focus was placed on farming throughout this government's reign - although the goal was never achieved and food was rationed due to its scarcity.
With more than half the workforce currently employed in agriculture, it is clear that this sector still plays a key role today.
Albania’s luscious lands, superfluous sunshine and rigorous rainfall all contribute to creating the perfect farming conditions.
Having progressed just thirty years from this time and moving into the modern day, Albania finds itself in an interesting and unusual position. The majority of its villagers know only farming and opportunities for young people outside the sector simply don’t exist in rural areas. Populations began to dwindle and many farmers were fed up with conditions. Gratefully, a solution has been found in the form of tourism and, thanks to many years of hard work and dedication, Albania is rapidly cementing itself as the prime location to experience traditional, slow food direct from farm to table in an authentic village setting.
Seeing the success of the Slow Food movement across the world, many Albanian entrepreneurs understood the opportunities that these small, family-owned farmhouses could provide. What the world was calling a ‘movement’ was simply daily life for the local people and one that, in the name of besa, the Albanian people are more than happy to share. It's important to note that most of these agrotourism venues are also these families' homes.
Following significant lobbying, the government finally got on board and began the “100 Villages” project. Agricultural students from Tirana’s universities were sent to help rural farmers understand the current import and export market, thus ensuring that they planted the right crops to guarantee profit. Students were also tasked with helping farmers understand the numerous government grants available and how to apply online to receive them. However, the biggest element to this project was the marketing and promotion of 100 small villages across Albania that were perfect locations to highlight agrotourism, thus creating a secondary industry separate from simple farming that may appeal to the younger rural population.
One doesn’t need to travel too far to see the goat roasting on the spit, the organic homemade cheeses for sale or smell the fli flatbread roasting over the fire, as many agrotourism venues surround Tirana. Although, should you find yourself wandering about the country, you’ll notice these farm-to-table offerings are everywhere, each one unique in its offerings. Certainly visiting one of these agrotourism is a must-do for any trip to Albania! Enjoy your meal - ju bëftë mirë!
By Alexandra Lewis
For more information on agrotourism in Albania, download the AgroTimeAL app which lists dozens of rural farms, guesthouses and tour options, complete with photos, interactive maps and contact details.