Let me start this post by saying that I love Italian cities. I have to say this because I don't want the Italian city purists to come for me after reading this post. So again, I'll reiterate. I LOVE ITALIAN CITIES.
With that said... Agritourism is the purest way to experience Italy and you'll never change my mind about this.
Sure, go to Rome and walk around Piazza Navona with a big ole gelato cono in your hand!
Yes! Go to Florence and eat a big ass steak and then walk it off alongside the Arno River!
Get lost in Venice! You should do ALL OF THESE THINGS.
But if you want to experience true Italian culture — PURE ITALIA! Then book some time at an Agriturismo in the countryside. In fact, stop reading right now, go book it and then come back.
For those uninitiated, Agriturismo is exactly what it sounds like. Agricultural Tourism. In Italy it means that you are either dining or staying on someone's farm, land or vineyard and they are hosting you and feeding you from their land. I have visited Agriturismos in Sardinia, on the Amalfi Coast and in Tuscany and each and every experience has been incredible. Some of the best meals and wine tastings of my life!
The accommodations for overnights have always been lovely in my experience, but if the idea of coming and staying on someone's farm makes you nervous then visiting an Agriturismo for a wine tasting or meal is a great way to dip your toe into the water. In most cases you're looking at a multi-course home cooked meal for under €100.
Bonus if you do decide to stay overnight: you may have access to a pool.
When you visit these properties, you are visiting someone's home. You are there as a guest and in many cases you'll feel like part of the family. The people you will meet are not just cooks in a restaurant or staff at a hotel. They are locals who are welcoming you to their village, their region, their land or their family's land and they're excited to share their stories with you. And you will meet other travelers there too!
This is in my opinion, the best way to experience Italian culture. It's not just about the statues, fountains, museums and glasses of Aperol spritz. It's about the people. Go meet the people! Speak to them in shitty broken-Italian if you have to but, just go.
A few tips: