FARMING IN ITALY
Last year we decided with my boyfriend that we wanted to have a long holiday together in Italy because we both really love the culture and the summer vibes in there. However, we knew that it could be quite costly to stay in somewhere for over a month only for a holiday and we wanted to do something productive at the same time. One day, he called me saying that he found a program called WWOOF (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms) where we could contact farms in Italy for voluntary work in exchange of food and a place to stay. The program stated that we only had to work 4-6 hours a day and depending on the host we could have had the weekends off. Due to our love of nature and the dream of staying together in a farmhouse we really liked the idea. We made an extensive plan of travelling different corners of Italy(Cinque Terre, Florence, Rome, Pisa, Genova, Milano and some suburbs) for half a month and we wanted to spare our last two weeks to go WWOOFing in Tuscany.
First, we went to the WWOOF website to check out the offers. When you are not a member you can see what kind of products the hosts are making such as wine making, vegetable farming or animal farming and you can read the details of their farm as how many people they live with, how big the farm is etc. There is also a map that shows the location of the farm however there are no pictures of properties. So we started looking and we came up with a general idea of what we would like to do. We knew that we didn’t really want to go into animal farming. We also saw that some families had such different practices when we looked back to our city life. Some of them did not like to use soaps, shampoos or any other cleaning materials and some said that they didn’t even had any water to use for cleaning purposes. So we decided to keep the experience to not an extreme but a casual farmhouse with a vegetable garden in a nice neighborhood would be ideal where we could also visit our surroundings a little bit.
Next, we wrote a letter explaining ourselves along with a picture and we got our WWOOF cards by signing up for 35 euros. This card allowed us access to the contact details for a whole year, so we decided we could go for another WWOOF to a wine yard (since we wanted to go in July winemaking was not available in many areas). From there we started contacting the hosts with our letter and our availability. Soon, we realized that it was important to contact them even months in advance because many farms were booked already. The hosts were usually really nice and since they were encountering many cultures around the world they were also very interested to have a Turkish student couple.
At last, we decided on a farm in Cecina, Tuscany and we were ready to go.
Things to Bring:
- Shoes that you don’t mind getting wet, muddy or dirty
- Clothes that you will wear on the field everyday (a pair of shorts for summer maybe but breezy trousers are also really comfortable when you have to work in plants with thorns)
- Garden gloves if you like to (our hosts gave us some but they were a bit old and if you prefer keeping your own in your backpack could be an option)
- Your own personal care products
We arrived to our WWOOFING home by train through the Bologna line and it was absolutely stunning. Our hosts were a couple in their sixties. There were two other girls who were wwoofing, one was staying with us(she was from Hong Kong!) in the stone house we had and the other preferred to stay in a tent(she wanted to manage her own farm in Tuscany as well). There was another woman called Laura who we really liked and got along with and neighbors who have always visited. There were two dogs and I don’t know how many cats.
Our duties included waking up at 6 in the morning to water the plants before it got really sunny, picking some leaves and vegetables in the vegetable garden and working in the big part of the farm collecting some plants. Other than that, we helped moving the soil and building basic utilities such as wooden stairs or fences. After 1 or 2 o’clock we were usually done and we could have spent time on our own. Sometimes, we helped in the afternoon around 5 and sometimes we went for walks or explorations in the nearby villages.
There were couple points that we could have done better. For example, we never asked for the pictures of the farm and the living conditions too much. Even though our farm was nice, it was a little bit different than what we have expected and the room we had was covered but did not have a door. Also our hosts expected their WWOOFers to cook all the food, so even though the duties were over in the garden we had to prepare the meal and wash the dishes for every lunch and dinner which we thought we would do altogether with our hosts. Therefore, sometimes some meals turned a little bit experimental but it was still edible :)! Lastly, the description said that we were going to learn to make bread and eat it in breakfast but of course it wasn’t what our city minds have imagined. The bread they taught us to prepare was really hard and it lacked some ingredients such as flour. Plus, there wasn’t much to eat with that bread in breakfast, we had one type of jam and coffee. So after a while we were eating only biscuits and coffee.
All in all, it was a really good experience where we came to live a lifestyle that was completely different to us and we liked the challenge. We went to the beach at the weekend and there also was a river close by and we walked around the fields with looked absolutely stunning. As a note, we learned to ask a little bit about what is expected from us and what we should expect from our hosts and we are looking forward to another WWOOF trip sometime in September in a wine yard!
The Unexpected Part of Our Journey
One day while we were going out of our house, and we saw more than a meter long of a snakeskin going into our house. That meant that a snake went right under our house during shedding. When we searched for what we saw on the internet we realized that it was a viper which was a poisonous type. When we told about it to our hosts they didn’t really get interested and not even looked under our house (we were staying in a separate small house where the ground was only made of wood). Therefore we could not sleep until late at night waiting for the snake to appear 😀 and when it did not happen (obviously!) we went to bed with the lights on. One positive side was that I filmed a video of the scared reaction of my boyfriend of the time he saw the snake skin and it is most hilarious thing of our trip in total. It was definitely an experience worth living!