* * * 23 JUNE UPDATE: Due to a last-min let-down, we are NOW looking for some land management/heavy-weight gardening help to join our lovely little team for the next 2 weeks. Must have experience in chainsaws, strimmers etc and be happy with tough jobs like digging out brambles. Possibility to help finish the therapy pool decking too, so carpentry/DIY skills would be a bonus. If this is you, please get in touch asap!
*️️️️️*️️️️️*️️️️️NOTE: BECAUSE WE ARE VULNERABLE, WE NEED YOU TO BE VACCINATED/NEGATIVE-TESTED BEFORE ARRIVAL (so we can all hug without worrying about hurting anyone :-)).
If you think you'd be a good fit here - ie you're a farmer/heavy-weight gardener used to managing lots of land, experienced carpenter and/or brilliant builder - please drop us a line and tell us about your skills!
If you have NONE of the experience we need, or don't take the time to respond PERSONALLY to our profile, we aren't the hosts for you. We receive tonnes of generic messages WITHOUT BEING ADDRESSED BY NAME and it's no fun writing rejection letters.
* * * BEFORE YOU READ ON: We receive a lot of kind comments about our profile ~ folks appreciate the details and pre-empting of questions, but we know that makes it super-long, so here's a summary of the most vital bits that will either make you dive in or run away:
We are fully independent with a passion for life and a deep care for others, however, we both have DISABILITIES and limited energy, so if you're looking for a free villa/restaurant/chauffeur, or a more active family, or folk who can work beside you and show you what to do all the time, or you don't have a really good work ethic (ie happy to do 5 hours toil in hot sun, clean tools and then help to prep dinner), or if there's even a slim chance that you wont stick to the dates agreed with us - please keep searching. From our experience hosting more than 100 workawayers, while we are always on hand for questions, support and needs, it's tiring to host all but the most self-sufficient and truly hard-working of folk and, as disabled folk, it's crushing (and expensive in all ways) to be let down. So please think CAREFULLY before you apply... we're looking for the 1% who truly understand the exchange premise of workaway, who are capable of/want to do the work we used to do (or have the skills we don't), who become part of our family for life and who we'd have back in a heartbeat.
We are asking only for longer-term helpers (3+ weeks) who can settle in, call this place 'home', and make a real contribution. We usually sit down with a glass of something fruity after the first week and see if we're all a good fit for each other.
Much of our diet contains local free-range eggs and cheese, so unfortunately it isn't suitable for vegans or very restrictive eaters (veggies, pescatarians and celiacs are welcome).
Musicians get bonus points.
And finally, much as we adore dogs, unfortunately our cats don't.
If you're still here, please keep reading... According to our wonderful workaway family, it's worth it ;o)
We are Juliet (47, Iranian/English, copywriter/editor) and Peter (72-going-on-12, English, retired) - a friendly, fun and hospitable duo.
We live in a comfortable, crumbly old villa in Lunigiana, together with 5-and-a-half rescue cats (you'll understand the half when you're here). The view is breath-taking and ever-changing... rather like our homegrown wine :o) 14 years ago, we restored everything with our own blood, sweat and blisters. Now, we are looking for experienced helping hands to maintain the land and repair/build things like walls & steps (more details in the Help section below).
Juliet has a health condition which means she's in constant pain (works like a demon when able, but physically wobbly/gets tired). Peter has had full joint replacement surgery and needs a break from anything involving strimmers or knees.
So you need to be super-positive, strong, energetic and fit, have a great work ethic, be naturally helpful (including after-hours), adaptable, communicative, caring, have great attention to detail 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 this is you, we'll give you everything we can in return - including our gratitude, friendship, encouragement, tools, hugs, ice cream, comfortable beds, cats and entertainment (mainly bad jokes) - and you'll gain the satisfaction of knowing you've been a huge help and made a lasting difference.
We ONLY HOST LONGER-TERM (3+ weeks) volunteers with BRILLIANT skills in one or more of the following:
*️️ Farming (you thrive when cutting acres of grass, digging out brambles and playing with chainsaws)
*️️ Carpentry/Building/Fab DIY (you've already built/restored some impressive stuff)
Whatever you do here in your adopted Italian home, we also ask you to help with the chores - recycling, cooking, laundry, keeping the shared spaces clean and tidy etc... just as you would in your own home.
We LOVE hosting the right folk - with 100+ workawayers so far, many of whom have returned several times/become family (have a peek at our feedback). We also love music (playing/listening/singing), quizzes, games, good food and great conversation, as well as quiet times - reading, flopping in the sunshine/by the fire and having a lie-in/watching films in our PJs at the weekends.
So if a mix of tasks, play and peace in the golden light of Lunigiana appeals to you, drop us a line!
Before replying, please kindly read the details below to see if we're all a good fit for each other. Thank you :o)
Hilfe bei Ökoprojekten
Heimwerker- und Bauarbeiten
Mithilfe auf einem Bauernhof
Zubereiten / Kochen von Mahlzeiten für die Familie
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
Being an old fart, he has some rather excellent stories about living in San Francisco in 1968, being a London cabbie and getting up to some dodgy shenanigans in Spain. He adores quizzes and games of Trivial Pursuits. He's obsessed with our cats - they comprise 90% of his conversations.
And last but not least, he's very handy with a traditional English longbow and a gentle teacher to anyone interested.
Juliet loves a good chat about life, the universe, equality, films and pangolins. She has been an organic gardener for many years and happy to demonstrate what little she knows. Ditto with honing your writing skills. As a published author, she runs writers' workshops and a charity bookclub, which you are welcome to come along to if they coincide with your stay.
After hours, J is happy to teach you piano, handpan, ukulele or basic flute. Depending on the latest covid rules, musicians/singers are also very welcome to join her every Thursday afternoon for music therapy sessions at the wonderful local care home for adults (18+) with various learning, emotional, behavioural and physical issues. It's chaotic but lots of fun!
With the right folk, we share more than just our home or a project. We really do share our love, energy and lives. Basically, we GIVE AS GOOD AS WE GET. So if you clock watch, treat our place like a hotel, take a day to pull out 3 and a half weeds, leave tools everywhere, trample mud through the house, leave dirty mugs on tables and skid marks in the loo and think you've been amazing, we won't be the best hosts in return. Conversely, if you are super-helpful and easy company, you'll have supportive family and prosecco for life. To sum up and save disappointment, THOSE WELCOME HERE ARE:
- Mature (attitude more important than age)
- Truly hard working (our favourites have spent their days digging out brambles or doing cement/stonework in hot sun and still want to make dinner for everyone with a smile on their face)
- Honest (we'd rather be impressed by those who underestimate their skills than disappointed in those who inflate them)
- Brilliant at self-managing and self-motivating... Equally brilliant at asking questions/checking in if not sure.
- Naturally helpful, even after hours - washing up, unloading the dishwasher, helping to unpack shopping, recycling etc, spotting wherever and whenever there's a need. We don't want slaves, but we also don't want to be slaves... It's no fun doing everything on painkillers :o)
- Considerate and respectful (cleaning tools, putting things back where they belong, cleaning the kitchen, shower and toilet after use)
- Dependable and reliable, including staying for the time agreed
- 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/skills/attention to detail to do each job really well (this is our home, we love it and we have to live with everything done to it. So please help to make it as beautiful as you would if it were yours)
- The conscientiousness to finish whatever is started
- The elbow grease/energy to finish it in good time
- A sense of humour :o)
We know it's a long list, but the right folk will be nodding enthusiastically now :o) Still here? Brill! Here are the projects we currently need help with. Take your pick or mix and match...
(1) OUTSIDE - THERAPY POOL ACCESS - BUILDER/CARPENTER/DIY-ER (1-2 people)
We're seeking a pro who knows their tools and their maths!...
Thanks to an amazing Kiwi builder, Argentinian architect, Scottish/Canadian carpenter and Dutch neighbour, our 10x6m therapy pool and decking are more or less done, but there are some last bits of finessing - a wooden pagoda and a solar shower to install and access to make. This is currently 12 wonky, steep log steps. We need some sturdy handrails and stairs to get to our much-needed daily swim - which involves cement work and someone who is a bit of a genius with maths, angles and levelling.
Tools, materials and encouraging 'whooping' noises will be provided.
If you have time/building experience and can fix some stone walls, you get extra biscuits.
(2) OUTSIDE - LAND MANAGEMENT (1-2 people)
Calling all experienced farmers and heavy-duty gardeners, capable of managing extensive and challenging grounds. This isn't a job for the faint-hearted or those used to gentle tending to a handkerchief-sized patch (9 out of 10 of those who say they can weed, don't dig with energy/skill to bring up the roots... so everything comes back within a week or two. That's no use to us. We're looking for the 1 out of 10).
You'll be super-practical, experienced in using a strimmer/weed-whacker/whipper-snipper, a push-mower and a chainsaw... and strong enough to use them for hours at a time. You're not scared of hard work for projects like the bramble apocalypse, pick-axing streams, climbing/cutting trees, logging, weeding, weeding, weeding, 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, how to use them properly without breaking them (or ask for a demo), how to clean and care for them daily and where to put them in their rightful spot afterwards. And finally, you'll know that a good day equates to achy muscles, sweaty clothes and mucky boots, and that thought makes you smile.
FOR ALL TASKS: Much of what we used to do/now ask for help with is tough, especially in the heat of summer. We insist you take breaks, but please ONLY apply if you're fit, strong, hard-working, have oodles of energy and a really positive attitude.
Please bring grippy, sturdy shoes/work-boots and suitable clothing (things you don't mind getting mucky/ripped by outdoor/painting/woodstaining work).
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 and possibly learn archery and ukulele :o)
If all this sounds like you, 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 to the time you say you will - with our disabilities, little is worse than being let down). And finally, please mention the word 'Pizza' in your message so we know you've read everything and believe you're a good fit.
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 (yay!)...
Italienisch: Gute Kenntnisse
Persian (Farsi): Grundkenntnisse
Dieser Gastgeber bietet Sprachaustausch an
Juliet would love to learn Persian, improve her Italian and refresh her BSL (British Sign Language) :o) In turn, we'd be happy to help you with our fluent English (J has taught it to adults) and flailing Italian :o)
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 (although sometimes as early as 7am in the summer). We're really 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 have to juggle paid work, charity work, admin, trips to the DIY store, medical appointments etc, so self-sufficiency is a must. Due to our health issues, we also need to rest and have quiet times (very early mornings, weekend lie-ins and occasional siestas). Outside of those times, we have wheelbarrows of giggles, games, music and prosecco here!
There's a comfortable king-sized bedroom or twin/double bedroom for you to settle into. Alternatively, you can have the downstairs den to yourself/selves in the summer (no heating and no bed, but comfy, huge, cushioned seating.) There's also a dedicated guest/workaway shower room downstairs. The main bathroom, kitchen and living spaces are shared between us all. As we generally host groups of volunteers at any one time, you may need to share your bedroom with others, either in the other twin bed or in a put-up bed. We will let you know this in advance and 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 6am.
Much as we adore dogs, unfortunately our cats don't. So if you're travelling with a four-legged friend, alas, we cannot meet them for a belly rub.
Juliet is a smoker. 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)).
For bookworms, we have a library that you are welcome to delve into during your stay.
For musos, you are fully encouraged to play any instrument you can find.
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.
Peter eats everything (except rice pudding, bizarrely), 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.
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 25 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 of Covid and because Peter cannot walk far, our evenings are now generally spent at home getting to know each other, playing music/games/quizzes, reading, eating ice cream, 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, count the 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 chores, just as you would at your place), and we will take you to a magical little waterfall and local events 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), 3 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 (castagne) constituted the local people's livelihood before and during the war. Nowadays, there are still 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), la mela rotella (apple), and to end with... elisir di China Clementi (a strong cure-all digestivo invented in Fivizzano that terrorises your throat).
In Autumn/fall, at the local fairs and in many of the 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 begin to grow. They are a great delicacy. You will find them served in restaurants with pasta in a cream sauce, or simply coated in flour and fried in oil. Buon appetito!
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