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*️️️️️*️️️️️*️️️️️ MAY 2020 UPDATE: WITH THE VIRUS TURNING THE WORLD UPSIDE-DOWN, WE'RE NOT SURE IF IT'S POSSIBLE FOR YOU TO GET HERE SAFELY (WE ALSO DON'T WANT TO PREMATURELY END UP AS COMPOST), BUT WE'RE LOOKING FOR SOME EXPERT HELPING HANDS. TWO IN PARTICULAR: AN PRO TO TAME OUR GARDEN (read: jungle) AND A FAB CARPENTER/DIY-ER/BUILDER TO COMPLETE THE DECKING FOR OUR THERAPY POOL, INCLUDING STEPS, RAILS, LADDER AND SOLAR SHOWER. WITH ALL SORTS OF TRAVEL RESTRICTIONS, WE'RE HOPING THAT SOMEONE PASSING BY NEAR US READS THIS AND LIKES WHAT THEY READ. ALSO THAT THEY CAN COPE WITH MORE TIME AT HOME WITH US CRAZIES :o) *️️️️️*️️️️️*️️️️️
We are Juliet (45, mongrel, copywriter/editor) and Peter (70-going-on-12, English, retired) - a friendly, fun and hospitable duo.
We live in a comfortable, crumbly old villa in Lunigiana, together with four 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 12 years. Now we need some expert helping hands to finish things/maintain things/start new things.
Juliet has a health condition that means she's in constant pain (very independent, works like a demon when able, but physically wobbly/gets tired) and would deeply appreciate a hand with projects and chores. Peter has recently had full joint replacement surgery and needs a break from hard labour and anything involving strimmers or knees.
So you need to be super-positive, strong, fit, hard-working, naturally helpful (including after-hours), adaptable, energetic, communicative, caring, and - above all - want to work with people who have both disabilities and dreams. Basically, you will leave our place (and us!) better than when you arrived. If you get this, we'll give you everything we can in return (including our gratitude, friendship, extra ice cream and lots of bad jokes) and you'll gain the satisfaction of knowing you've been a huge help and really made a lasting difference.
We're ONLY HOSTING LONGER-TERM VOLUNTEERS (3-4+ weeks) with brilliant skills in one or more of the following:
*️️ Carpentry/Building/Fab DIY (you've already built some impressive stuff)
*️️ Gardening/farming (you love cutting acres of grass and playing with chainsaws)
*️️ House management (you're OCD when it comes to cleaning/YUM when it comes to cooking) - this one needs to be combined with some gardening as there isn't really enough to do in the home for 3+ weeks.
*️️ See more details below.
Whatever you do here in your Italian home, we also need you to help with chores - recycling, cleaning, cooking, keeping the shared spaces tidy etc... just as you would in your own home. If we have to spend half our time/energy cleaning up after you, it's not really much help to us.
That said, we love hosting the right folk - with 75+ workawayers so far, many of whom have returned/become family. We also love music, quizzes, games, good food and great conversation, as well as quiet times, reading, flopping in the sunshine/by the fire, daydreaming about the next project and having a lie-in/watching films at the weekends in our PJs.
So if a mix of hard work, play and peace in the golden light of Lunigiana appeals to you, drop us a line!
NB: If you want to stay for 1 week, have none of the above skills or experience, and/or only tell us about your love of yoga, photography and cats, please don't apply. If you only write generic messages (ie not using our names or taking the time to read/respond properly to our profile), again please don't contact us. We've received nearly 100 messages like this and it's really no fun writing rejection letters.
(NB Before replying, please read the details below to see if we're all a good fit for each other. It's a smidge long, but it saves us all time. Thank you :o))
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 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, films, music 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 and does music therapy sessions at the local care home, which you are welcome to attend if interested/they coincide with your stay.
We have made many wonderful lifelong friends through Workaway (do peek at our feedback). 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)
- Hard-working, both on own and as part of a small team
- Naturally helpful, even after hours - jumping in, washing up, unloading the dishwasher, helping to unpack shopping, sorting recycling etc wherever and whenever there's a need. It's no fun doing everything on painkillers. We don't want slaves, but we also don't want to be slaves :o)
- Considerate and respectful (you'd be surprised how many people break tools through improper use, don't put things back where they belong, trample mud through the house, leave dirty mugs/glasses everywhere but the sink/dishwasher and don't clean the tools/kitchen/shower/toilet(!!!) after use.)
- Dependable/reliable, including staying for the time agreed
- Honest (we'd rather be impressed by those who underestimate their skills than disappointed in those who inflate them)
- Adaptable and easy-going
- Very 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 (professionals and perfectionists welcome!)
- The conscientiousness to finish whatever is started
- The elbow grease to finish it in good time
- And a great sense of humour :o)
Anyone who loves to cook/is happy to rustle up something for the team after their day's work gets lots of extra biscuits.
Still here? Brill! Here are the jobs we need help with:
(1) GARDEN: 1-2 people
Calling all experienced gardeners/farmers, capable of caring for our extensive grounds. This isn't a job for the faint-hearted or those used to gentle weeding of a handkerchief-sized patch. You'll be super-practical and experienced in using a strimmer/weed-whacker/whipper-snipper, a push-mower and preferably a chainsaw... and strong enough to use them for hours at a time. You'll be planting, sowing and harvesting (the fun bit), but you're not scared of hard work for projects like the bramble apocalypse, pick-axing streams, re-building stone walls/steps, logging, climbing/pruning trees, weeding, weeding, weeding (the downside? to organic land), turning/composting soil, managing bonfires safely and raking until you probably never want to see a rake again. You'll know which tool(s) to use for the job and how to care for them properly. You'll know how to dig with energy/skill so the weeds don't return within days (much rarer than you think). And finally, you'll know that a good day equates to achy muscles and mucky boots, and that thought makes you smile.
If you have DIY/building/carpentry skills and can fix various wobbly/broken things, you also get extra biscuits :o)
(2) HOME: 1 person (part-time, combined with part-time gardening)
You'll be a magician in our big, dusty villa - an OCD cleaner who loves to scrub floors and to reach into tricky places that we physically cannot to make everything sparkle. You'll also be a passionate cook, excited to show us some of your national/favourite dishes, help with jam/pickle making and rustle up delicious veggie and non-veggie meals for us all several evenings each week. Additionally, you'll help with the daily recycling/composting and de-leafing the pool, plus sporadic laundry, any painting/decorating that needs a top-up and helping Juliet to clear out cupboards/drawers and generally organise the place. If you're arty, there may be some upcycling/design projects. To avoid cabin fever, some of your time will be spent weeding, sweeping, raking, pruning, sowing/harvesting etc outside.
If you can expertly hand-stitch/repair clothes that have more holes in than they should, those extra biscuits are yours :o)
NB You will need to have a valid driving licence and be over 25 for Italian insurance restrictions (sorry) to use Juliet's old banger to pop to the local shops and market as and when needed.
This is your chance to immerse yourself in rural Tuscan life in a generous, loving, comfortable and fun home. And to eat Peter's legendary roast potatoes :o) Plus receive Juliet's not-so-legendary guidance if you fancy learning ukelele, piano or handpan or honing your writing skills.
If you're smiling/nodding at the above, please apply with the REASONS WHY YOU'RE PERFECT FOR US (skills and experience, plus personality). Please include your availability (you'll need to be able to commit for AT LEAST 3 weeks). 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!
And now for a description of daily living/accommodation/meals, how to get to us and fun things to do at the weekends/days off...
Persian (Farsi): Grundkenntnisse
It takes large coffees and small miracles for us to get going :o) Depending on the weather and task, we generally work Monday-Friday, from 10am (although sometimes as early as 7am in the summer). We're pretty flexible - if you want time off, a long weekend etc, just give us a spot of notice and we'll work around you. Our favourite people never clock-watch but if you do put in extra hours, we'll stick a beer in your hands and (lovingly) force you to down tools. 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 our health issues, please understand that we also need to rest and have quiet times (early mornings, weekend lie-ins and siestas). Outside of those times, we have wheelbarrows of fun, music and limoncello here!
There's a comfortable king-sized/triple bedroom or twin/double bedroom for you, with a bathroom, two shower rooms, kitchen and living spaces shared between us all (including 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 generally host more than one workawayer at any one time, you may need to share your bedroom with other workawayers, either in the other twin bed or in a put-up bed. We only ever invite people who we would feel happy 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 and singing their out-of-harmony 'We demand breakfast' song at 7am.
Much as we adore dogs, unfortunately our cats don't. So if you're travelling with a four-legged friend, sadly this isn't the place for you.
Juliet is a smoker, and although we do our best to aerate our home, please don't apply if you find smoke unpleasant.
Internet is pretty fast and reliable here (except when it's not :o)).
We have a library that you are welcome to delve into during your stay.
Musicians are fully encouraged to play any instrument they find.
Musicians/singers are also very welcome to join Juliet every Thursday afternoon for music sessions at the wonderful local care home for adults (18+) with various learning, emotional, behavioural and physical issues.
Breakfast and lunch: Everyone helps themselves (there's ample food in fridges and cupboards).
Dinner: A chance for us all to cook together, sit together, learn about each other and have some great chats.
*️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️*️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️*️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️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 gluten-free pasta for celiacs. Conversely, Peter eats anything, so meat eaters are welcome too, but please don't expect a massive amount of it.
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.
We go to the market on Tuesday mornings (inc. coffee and cake) and out for a cheap, delicious pizza or rustic local meal on Friday nights. When/where possible, we will also take you to touristy things/days at the beach/feste etc. Please bring pocket money for these.
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, have oodles of energy and a really positive attitude.
Please bring grippy shoes and suitable clothing (things you don't mind getting mucky/ripped).
GETTING TO US
Our nearest airport is Pisa (85 minutes away). The airports of Parma and Genova are about a 90-minute drive/2 hour train journey. Milan and Bologna are a bit further but very doable.
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 20 minutes from us. Trains leave regularly from Pisa Centrale to Aulla and take 1+ hours. (Trains from La Spezia , Florence and Genova are also easy and direct/1 change). 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) or a bus to Fivizzano. But we can pick you up from either.
GETTING ABOUT WHILE YOU'RE HERE
We are rural, on the outskirts of a tiny hamlet. For those without a car, it's a 20 minute woodland walk to the town of Fivizzano. With advance notice/a driver's licence, you can use Juliet's old banger for short trips (over 25s only - sorry - Italian insurance). Otherwise, we will give you a lift to town and nearby train/bus stations when we can.
Because Peter cannot walk far, our evenings are generally spent at home getting to know each other, playing games/quizzes, playing instruments, reading, watching films and binge-watching Netflix, usually covered in cats. So hopefully you'll like doing these things too. Or you can watch the bats and fireflies and find your own space.
Weekends are all yours (YAY!). Time off for you also means precious time off for us. While you are welcome to flop here (helping with cooking and light chores, just as you would at your place), and we will take you to a magical little waterfall and local feste etc when possible, we love it when workawayers go off and have their own adventures. We can lend you guidebooks, maps, swimming towels and help with travel planning. Here are some great places to visit while you're here:
Our ancient walled town of Fivizzano 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!
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 the fantastic local cheeses (ie il pecorino e la caciotta), homemade pastas, organic wines, vegetables and olives, tartufi (truffles), fagioli (beans) di bigliolo, la mela (apple) 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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