Located in the Shijak region of central Albania, around 45 minutes drive from Tirana, Agroturizem Gjepali is one of 14 certified agrotourism business in the country.
Owned by the Gjepali family and built on land that has been worked by them for six generations, they bring decades, if not centuries of expertise. Prior to communism, Elez Gjepali owned a considerable amount of land comprising of arable land and orchards, and home to livestock such as cows, sheep, and poultry.
Due to the course of Albanian history, the land was taken from the family and they lost everything. Then, in the 90s after the fall of the regime, they dreamed of rebuilding what they had once had. Bit by bit, they started to replant the orchards, grow crops, and build stables for the rearing of livestock.
Then, in 2017, they decided to construct a big farm and also to make it accessible to friends and visitors who want to enjoy fresh, local, food and enjoy what the Albanian countryside has to offer.
Fundim Gjepali has worked extensively abroad, mainly in Rome. He is also the chef at Padam- one of Tirana’s most exclusive restaurants.
It’s fair to say, I had high expectations when visiting Gjepali, and I left not feeling disappointed.
The building of Gjepali is modelled on a Tuscan theme. Home to a restaurant and hotel, it is surrounded by a large veranda which includes seating covered by a large gazebo. Decorated in the Tuscan style combined with traditional Albanian stonework, it is both imposing and welcoming. The interior consists of stone floors, beams, and white walls. An extensive and impressive wine collection, including some of the countries best Kantinas, and some international favourites, take over the back wall. The other three walls are glass, looking out onto the veranda and the rolling fields beyond.
Gjepali is a fancy place. It looks smart, chic, and, dare I say it, posh. But it also manages to be unpretentious and welcoming at the same time.
The staff are neatly dressed and most spoke English. They were attentive and kind and were more than patient with my very active one-year-old. I was pleased to find that they had a children highchair available (a rarity in Albania) and there was a large, well-maintained play area in full view of the seating area.
For our evening meal, I asked them to bring a selection of what they recommended as I always prefer to leave these decisions in the hands of the chef.
What followed was around five courses of delicious Albanian cuisine with a high-end touch. The restaurant manager informed me that everything on our plates was grown, cultivated, or made by them. This included wine, raki, butter, cheese, and bread.
Of course, everything is seasonal so the menu on offer will change based on what is available and in season at that particular moment. We enjoyed delicious soft cheeses accompanied by olives and pickled vegetables. Slices of beetroot with garlic infused ricotta, melt-in-the-mouth lamb with rosemary and roasted potatoes, juicy, fresh tomato with cucumber and leafy greens, and quail served with lemon.
We opted for the house white wine which was delicious and enjoyed (a little too much) raki made with mana (mulberry) fruit.
Everything was cooked beautifully and was not seasoned too heavily. You could taste it was fresh and bio, and the portion sizes were just right.
We stayed in the hotel overnight and were shown to a large, tastefully decorated double. There was no TV or fridge, but we were there to eat, drink, and enjoy, not to watch TV. The room had air conditioning and a spacious bathroom. It overlooked a garden full of vegetables, some sheep grazing, and a forest just beyond.
When it came to time to leave, we were kindly presented with a bag of fresh tomatoes and cucumber (my daughters’ favourites) and a bottle of raki to remind us of our stay.
In terms of cost, we paid under 9000 ALL (EUR 72) for one-night accommodation, dinner including water and wine, and breakfast including water and coffees, for 2.5 people.
Overall, Agroturizem Gjepali is a professional, smart, and well put together hotel and restaurant. It manages all of these things while still being cosy and making you feel at home. Highly recommended for an overnight stay, or just an afternoon visit for delicious food and wine.
This is not a paid article, nor did Exit, or the author receive any financial incentive or otherwise to write this article.