We are Juliet (44, mongrel, copywriter) and Peter (69-going-on-12, English, retired) - a friendly, fun and hospitable duo.
We live in a comfortable, crumbly old villa in Lunigiana, together with five mad rescue cats. The view here is breath-taking and ever-changing... rather like our homegrown wine :o) We restored our house - a work in progress - and have lived here for 11 years. Now we need some experienced helping hands to finish things/maintain things/start new things... and to tame the organic garden, veg patch/orchard, herb garden and olive grove.
Juliet has a debilitating condition (very independent, works like a demon when able, but physically wobbly/gets tired) and would deeply appreciate a hand with the chores she finds a challenge. Peter has recently had full joint replacement surgery and needs a break from hard labour and anything involving strimmers or knees.
In a nutshell, we are ONLY looking for naturally helpful, hardworking, caring, positive people... those who can dive straight into our family and be an asset for their stay. We're now ONLY HOSTING LONGER-TERM VOLUNTEERS (see update below).
We really enjoy hosting - 60+ workawayers so far and Italian/non-Italian amici popping in and out much of the time. We also love music. We have a rusty piano, a less rusty keyboard, a drumkit, two duduks, three ukulele, a 3/4 acoustic guitar, an electric guitar and two handpans, plus friends with many others, so feel free to add to the mix. Other spare moments are spent with board games and quizzes, outdoorsy things (longbow archery, festivals, swimming in waterfalls/the Med), good food and great conversation, as well as quiet times, reading, flopping in the sunshine/by the fire, dreaming in the dip pool and having a lie-in/watching films at the weekends in our PJs.
So if the idea of a mix of hard work, play and peace in the golden light of Lunigiana appeals to you, drop us a line!
(NB BEFORE REPLYING, please read the details below to see if we're all a good fit for each other. Thank you :o))
UPDATE MAY 2019:
WE'RE LOOKING FOR A LONGER-TERM COUPLE, couple of friends, or two singles who we can mix-and-match, to really dig in and become part of our home over summer. At least a month+ of work, comfortable bed(s), a houseful of cats, music, hugs, laughter and a weekly pizza night await the right partnership.
The ideal additions to our little family would be a strong, fit, hard-working, positive and energetic duo for the following:
(LOVELY PERSON 1) GARDEN: You'll be confident/capable of caring for our grounds (including veggie patch/herb garden/trees plus watering and composting). You'll be experienced in using a strimmer/weed-whacker/whipper-snipper and a push-mower (and hopefully also a chainsaw) and strong enough to use them for hours at a time. You're not scared of hard work for projects like bramble clearing, pick-axing streams, re-building stone walls, climbing/pruning trees, heavy-duty weeding, turning/prepping the soil and raking. You know that a good day equates to achy muscles. The muckier the job, the better :o) As a bonus, you will have good all-round DIY and carpentry skills to fix various bits and pieces around house, lay a solid base for our dip-pool and finish off some shed window frames. Juliet will work alongside you when she can and provide plenty of tea and biccies :o)
(LOVELY PERSON 2) HOME: You'll be a magician in our big, dusty home - an OCD cleaner who loves to use elbow grease on the floors and to reach into tricky places to make everything sparkle (+ free from cat hair). You'll also be a passionate cook, excited to plan menus with us each week, then shop for and rustle up delicious veggie and non-veggie meals for us all. Additionally, you'll be responsible for the daily recycling/composting and prepping the fire (when chilly), plus sporadic washing and ironing, any painting/decorating that needs a top-up and helping Juliet to clear out cupboards/drawers and generally organise the place. If you can hand-stitch/repair clothes flawlessly, that's a bonus. And to stop you from getting cabin fever, there's always light weeding, sweeping and planting to be done outside.
You're welcome to swap parts of these roles between you, as long as the work gets done. One thing's for certain: You'll both be caring, easy-going, adaptable souls, not bothered by the sight of us in our PJs and happy to leap up to unpack shopping, stack logs, load the dishwasher and do whatever needs doing in your family home. You're the sorts of naturally helpful people who cannot walk past a dirty oven top or a fallen branch. As it's longer-term, you'll need to be brilliant at self-managing and also at helping to manage others if we get additional temporary help.
At least one of you will need to be over 25 (sorry - Italian insurance restrictions), have a valid driving licence and be confident using Juliet's old banger to pop to the local shops and market as and when needed. With notice, you're welcome to borrow it at the weekends for trips to local sites etc.
What can we offer you in return? The chance to truly settle into local Tuscan life in a generous, warm, comfortable and fun home, hopefully a few life lessons and lots of flexibility, gratitude and cake. Oh, and Peter's legendary roast potatoes :o) Plus Juliet's not-so-legendary guidance if you fancy learning uke, piano or handpan or honing your writing skills.
Because Peter cannot walk far, our evenings are currently spent at home playing games/quizzes, playing instruments, watching films and binge-watching Netflix, usually covered in cats. So hopefully you'll like doing these things too (Juliet will happily take you to waterfalls and festivals at the weekends when she can. Or you can go off on your own adventures).
If you're smiling/nodding at all the above, please apply with the REASONS (skills/experience/personality) WHY YOU'RE PERFECT FOR US. Please include your availability (you'll need to be able to commit for at least a month, anytime from May). And finally, mention the word 'pizza' so we know you've read our description ;o)
We're really look forward to hearing from you and hopefully adopting you soon!
Feel free to have a read of our feedback and general description below before you write...
Hilfe bei Ökoprojekten
Along the way, we've gained various practical and artistic skills, from chainsawing and cement mixing to paint effects and mosaics, which we are happy to share. (We still have a lot to learn, so your experience in building, carpentry or any practical skill would be most welcome in return.)
Juliet has run English classes for adults and children and we will both help if English is not your first language. We speak just about enough Italian to get by and can pass on what we know. Se sei madrelingua in italiano, saremo molto grati per conversazioni e correzioni :o)
Peter is knowledgeable about all sorts of subjects (from politics to history) and delighted to impart his wisdom. Just don't get him started on Phil Collins, Toto or any cheesy 60s/70s/80s stuff... you might not make it out alive :oD
He's also rather handy with a traditional English longbow and a gentle teacher to anyone interested.
Juliet loves a good chat about life, the universe and pangolins. She has been an organic gardener for many years and happy to demonstrate what little she knows. Ditto with piano, ukulele and handpan. She runs a writers' workshop and charity bookclub which you are welcome to attend if interested/they coincide with your stay.
ABOUT THE VOLUNTEERING (We know this is long, but most appreciate the detail!):
We are primarily looking for those with existing skills/relevant professions: great builders, talented carpenters, confident free-climbing tree surgeons and knowledgeable, brilliant gardeners/landscapers. Extra ice cream will be awarded to anyone who actually knows how to weed properly (rarer than you think), can mix/use cement, handle a chainsaw, (re-)build dry stone walls and do mid-level woodwork (pool base, shed window frames).
Much of what we do/ask for help with is tough work, especially in the heat of summer. Please ONLY apply if you're fit, strong and have oodles of energy.
Please bring tough, grippy shoes and suitable clothing (things you don't mind getting mucky/ripped).
The bucket-list for 2019:
OUTSIDE: Mowing the grounds (including work with a strimmer/weed-whacker/weed-eater/whipper-snipper... that is all the same thing, just to be confusing); a bramble apocalypse; weeding, weeding, weeding; pond planting; doing the finishing touches to the garden shed (basic carpentry for window frames, drilling to install shutters); stream widening; re-building a large stone wall (with cement); restoring the old brick-and-stone domed bread oven; making/installing fences from wood and bamboo; constructing raised beds from recycled wood/brick; making/repairing borders and steps with large stones (some cemented, some dry-stone), planting/harvesting veggies, herbs and sundries; pruning/harvesting olive and fruit trees; and shaping some tall trees, including chainsaw work for firewood.
INSIDE: A nuclear-level cleaning job (we welcome anyone who seriously loves cleaning); making/fixing wood wedges to repair draughty old windows and shutters; some recycling/upcycling projects; hand-stitching clothes/fabrics that have a lot more holes than they should; jam and pickle-making; and help with cooking.
Please let us know which of the above you have experience/skills in.
It takes large coffees and small miracles for us to get going in the mornings :o) Depending on the weather and task, we generally work Monday-Friday, from 10am. Juliet will work alongside you wherever/whenever possible and we are both on hand if you have any questions or needs. We do have to juggle paid work, charity work, admin, trips to the DIY store etc, so self-sufficiency is a must. Due to health, we also need to rest. Those who don't understand our need for quiet times (early mornings, weekend lie-ins and the occasional siesta) are really not right for us. Outside of those times, we have wheelbarrows of fun, music and limoncello here!
We have made many wonderful lifelong friends through Workaway, several of whom have returned to us many times and become like family. (Peek at our feedback for more detail.) They are the ones we share more than just our home or a project with. To sum up, those welcome here are:
- Mature (attitude more important than age)
- Naturally helpful - jumping in, washing up, helping to unpack shopping, sorting recycling, bringing in logs etc wherever and whenever there's a need. We don't want slaves, but we also don't want to be your slaves :o)
- Hard-working, both on own and as part of a small team
- Considerate and respectful (you'd be surprised how many people don't clean the tools/kitchen/shower/toilet(!) after use, or put things back where they got them from)
- Dependable/reliable, including staying for the time agreed
- Honest (we'd rather be impressed by those underestimate their skills than disappointed in those who inflate them)
- Adaptable and easy-going
- Positive, with a 'can-do' and 'no problem' mentality
- Possessing of great communication skills
- Able to follow instructions correctly (or ask if not sure)
- Have the ethics/attention to detail to do each job really well
- The conscientiousness to finish whatever they start
- The elbow grease to finish it on schedule
- And a great sense of humour :o)
If the above doesn't sound like a perfect description of you, please save our time, energy and love for those who are nodding enthusiastically right now.
Any questions, feel free to squeak in our direction. We really hope to welcome you soon!
If you have got this far (phew!), please write the word: 'PIZZA' in your reply so we know you've read and accepted our description.
English, Italian (intermediate), BSL (basic) and a tiny bit of Persian.
We have a comfortable double/triple bedroom and twin/double bedroom available, with a bathroom, two shower rooms, kitchen and living spaces shared between us all (including possibly other workawayers and friends). Or you can have the downstairs den/shower to yourself/selves. (The den isn't heated though, so warm weather only.) As we host more than one workawayer at any one time, you MUST be willing to share your sleeping space with other workawayers, either in the other twin bed or a camp bed in the double. We only ever invite people who we would feel comfortable sharing with too :o)
You will need to be cat lovers, or at least tolerators! They are ex-feral and scared of strangers, except when it comes to thieving opportunities (unattended food disappears in a nanosecond). Tip: close your bedroom door unless you want one or more sleeping on your head or singing their out-of-harmony 'We demand breakfast' song at 7am.
Juliet is a smoker, and although we do our best to aerate our home, please DO NOT apply if you find smoke unpleasant.
Internet is pretty fast and reliable here (except when it's not :o)).
We have a little library that you are welcome to delve into during your stay.
And musicians are fully encouraged to play any instrument they can find.
*️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️*️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️*️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️We usually host/cook for groups and much of our diet contains local free-range eggs and cheese, so unfortunately it isn't suitable for VEGANS or very restrictive eaters.*️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️*️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️*️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️
That said, Juliet is vegetarian, so veggies/pescatarians are welcome and there's some gluten-free pasta in our cupboard for celiacs. Conversely, Peter eats anything, so meat eaters are welcome too, but please don't expect a massive amount of it. His roast potatoes are legendary :o)
Food is simple but delicious in this part of the world. Depending on the time of year, we have fresh organic veggies and fruit on our land.
Everyone helps themselves to breakfast. Dinner is a chance for us all to cook together, sit together, learn about each other and have some great chats. Lunch is usually something in between.
We particularly welcome keen cooks who will rustle up something for us/workawayers.
We go out for a cheap, delicious pizza or rustic local meal once a week, usually on Friday nights. When/where possible, we will take you to touristy things/days at the beach/feste etc. Please bring pocket money for those.
TIME OFF/THINGS TO DO
Weekends are all yours (YAY!). Time off for you also means precious time off for us. While you are welcome to flop at our place, we will help in any way we can with travel/accommodation planning and budget tips, dropping you off at the bus/train station, lending you guidebooks, maps, swimming towels and picnic baskets.
Our ancient walled town of Fivizzano (a 20 minute walk) is called the "Florence of the North" as it was once home to the Florentine administration and has striking palazzi and a fountain donated by Cosimo de Medici. It is small but it has some great festivals in the summer/autumn, various musical events, a fantastic charity bookshop (most languages), a tennis court and a weekly market, as well as the obligatory gelataria (yummy ice-cream and cakes), 2 pizzerie, a little co-operative supermarket, several bars, pharmacies, corner shop, newsagent etc.
The Lunigiana is sometimes described as 'The land of one hundred castles'. The castles were built by the oldest rich families, such as Malaspina, Bosi and Estensi, who fought to get control of this magical land.
Verrucola is our local one - a fantastic castle and walled village about a 45 minute walk/7 minute drive from us. It also has a trattoria - a great place for a local, cheap eat.
Further afield you will find: Piagnaro Castle in Pontremoli, Brunella Fortress in Aulla and Malaspina Castle in Fosdinovo. There are many others, each with a unique history.
Along the old pilgrim route and merchants' roads there are a smattering of picturesque medieval villages. Some of the most characterful worth a visit are: Filetto, Malgrate, Bagnone, Filattiera, Mulazzo and Pontremoli. Seasonal festivals are held in the villages throughout the year to celebrate everything from medieval archery to onions.
45 minutes south: Carrara and Pietrasanta - home of the world-famous marble (tours available) and interesting sculptor and artist workshops.
1 hour south: Lucca, beautiful, walkable walled medieval city; birthplace of Puccini. Hire a bike and cycle the walls.
85 minutes south: Pisa, with its famous tower, enchanting baptistry and bustling student life.
90 minutes northwest: the lively port of Genova with art galleries, museums, funky wine bars and diverse restaurants.
90 minutes northeast: picturesque Parma, for those with a craving for the famous ham.
2 hours south: Florence, a must-visit if you haven't already been.
The Gulf of La Spezia (45 minutes from us by car, or 25 minutes on the train from Aulla), otherwise known as the Gulf of Poets, has attracted many writers, artists and film-makers over the years. It was where the the Romantic poets Shelley and Byron set the artistic world on fire following in the Renaissance footsteps of Dante and Michelangelo. The colourful and quietly cosmopolitan coastal towns of Lerici, San Terenzo and Portovenere still retain their authenticity and charm.
A little further along via train or boat, the Cinque Terre (5 lands) are a Unesco World Heritage Site consisting of five ancient fishing villages clinging to the cliffs overlooking the sparkling, turquoise Med with its hidden coves. This film-set-like location is a great place to go for a challenging walk, swim, potter or snooze on days off!
TRANSPORT WHILE YOU'RE HERE
We are rural. For those without a car, it's a 20 minute walk to town. With advance notice/a driver's licence, you are welcome to use our car for local trips (over 25s only - sorry - Italian insurance). Otherwise, we will give you a lift to town and nearby train/bus stations when we can (we usually go to the shops 3-4 times a week).
GETTING TO US
Our nearest airport is Pisa (about 85 minutes away). The airports of Parma and Genova are about a 90-minute drive/2 hour train journey, with other more northern airports, such as Milan and Turin, that bit further but still reachable.
If you don't have a car, it is easy to use the trains to get to us. Our nearest major train station is AULLA (pronounced: ow-ooh-la) which is 25 minutes from us. Trains leave regularly from Pisa Centrale to Aulla and take 1+ hours. (Trains from Florence, Genova et al are also easy and direct). From Aulla, if it doesn't involve a long wait, you can then catch a quick train to our local train station, Fivizzano-Rometta (10 minutes from us). But we can pick you up from either.
A LAST BIT FOR FOODIES
A large part of the Lunigiana is covered by chestnut woods. These nuts constituted the local people's livelihood before and during the war. Nowadays, there are many local dishes where the main ingredient is chestnut flour, such as panigacci - flatbreads baked in clay dishes and served with ricotta and salami, testaroli (large pancakes usually smothered in pesto), gnocchi mesci, pani del Fivizzanese and la marocca di Casola, as well as pani di Po, Agnino, Vinca, Regnano (breads cooked in the traditional wood ovens) and the focaccia made in Pontremoli.
Other traditional foods are Agnello (lamb) di Zeri, fantastic local cheeses (ie il pecorino e la caciotta), pastas, wines, vegetables and olives, la spalla cotta di Filattiera, tartufi (truffles), fagioli di bigliolo, la mela rotella, and to end with... elisir di China Clementi (a strong cure-all post dinner digestive that terrorises your throat).
At stalls in the local fairs and indeed many of the local grocery shops, you will see a plump beige/brown mushroom in wicker baskets lined with chestnut leaves. The Lunigianese look forward to the beginning of the season when the funghi (mushrooms) begin to grow. They are a great delicacy. You will find them frequently served in restaurants with pasta in a cream sauce, or simply coated in flour and fried in oil. Buon appetito!
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