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Short stays: one week - ten days
Bring us if you can some traditional food and/or pants and seeds from your area :)
Hi, my name is Guido and with my family we live in the area where Mount Etna is the closest to the sea.
This area is renowned for its unique soil and microclimate; inevitable conditions if you have a three and a half thousand metres volcano to less than ten kilometres from the coast.
Our farm consists of a few plots, all of them a few km close-by one another.
My parents (Turi and Caterina), my sister (Chiara) and my grandma (Giuseppa-for everyone just “nonna”) live in one of these plots and the one we hang out at most: a chaotic country house in the middle of a 3-acre grove; an old lemon orchard that my father has transformed into a fruit garden. That is the place we commonly refer to and identify as “the farm”. Today, in this small piece of land, we hold something like 60 different varieties of plants and trees, half of which tropical and subtropical. What had begun as a mere hobby, over time became a small challenge: growing as many varieties as our microclimate and soil permit. This increasing shift in biodiversity has led us, gradually and necessarily, toward other closely related trends such as permaculture, sustainable development and self-sufficiency. We are firmly against chemicals and have always been, even before becoming certified. We have two friendly dogs (Jaco and Bianca) and some chickens. I see many of you want to come to learn or improve Italian, you couldn’t choose a better place! Lots of Italian and dialect gibberish in the house (don’t forget my grandma), not to mention daily traditional Sicilian gestures and body-language :)
I’ve also been a volunteer myself. I’ve spent several months in the UK and Ireland to loosen up my tongue a bit. My wife is from Hong Kong, we are okay with Latin-based languages and generally curious about all languages.
Cooking / shopping
Help in the house
Help with Computers / internet
Depending on seasons there will be always a variety of practical things to learn (grafting, pruning, wrapping, plowing, plucking, etc.), all imbued with a bit of scientific, philosophical and cultural background.
We believe 25 hours per week is a good match for room and board in exchange. Albeit generally in the morning, it is not rare to ask you to help us at a different time of the day or in different places. Our primary target of course will be everything involving the garden maintenance (weeding and cleaning, working the land, harvesting, maintaining and repairing, etc.). Some of our ever-going projects are the enlargement of our vegetable garden along with the improvement of the irrigation system and in our to-do list the start of a small plant nursery and greenhouse.
A reality check: help in the farm is not always easy. Helping us means being entrusted with a task on our behalf, allowing us to take care of something else. That is why helpers need to be reliable, self-motivated and independent.
Suggested clothing: long work trousers/jeans, shirts (long and short sleeves), old jacket/hoodie, boots (those for builders are perfect), hat, thick leather gloves.
Rain jacket for fall-winter time and solar cream/mosquitoes repellent for spring-summer time.
You will be staying with me in our apartment in the nearby hamlet of Carruba. The apartment is 4.5 km away from the main plot (the farm). We move together by car; when not with me, in the milder seasons, you are provided with a bicycle to reach the plots. The way to reach it is almost all flat except for the last 1.5 km which is uphill – it has already been defined “strenuous for the less experienced“, therefore be aware of it. You must know how to operate a gear system on a mountain bike. The way back will be pure fun. The rest of the plots are much easier to reach. The time required to cycle is not included in the helping hours.
Depending on the number of people that come and go, you might be relocated in other rooms when necessary. Bathroom will be always shared. Wi-Fi, washing machine and the normal appliances and equipment needed for everyday living are available in case you are wondering. The apartment is on the last floor, surrounded by balconies and with a big terrace from which you may catch sight of the sea (just 15 minutes away) or tan yourself to a crisp under the sun.
Bus stop next door and train station a matter of minutes away on foot.
Food: it consists of all constituents of the Mediterranean diet whereas fruit and vegetables coming primarily from our land. Of all meals, lunch (at around 2 pm) will be generally shared. Let us know of any animal/food allergies you have.
The main plot (the farm) is located in Giarre’s southern outskirts, less than a mile from the motorway’s (A18) exit and easily reachable by all busses covering the SS114 Messina-Catania. We are approximately 40 km from Catania International Airport, 35-50 minutes depending on connections between public transport – the train itself, in fact, takes no more than 25 minutes to get to Catania Centrale railway station. The apartment is quite close to the train station – Google map says around 4 minutes on foot. The location is indeed a convenient one.
A word of advice: dealing with the mysterious realm of our public services might sometimes be an “extraordinary” experience. Therefore, plan your connections carefully!
Being a densely built area, villages often come in succession, merging together (sometimes it’s hard to say where the one starts and the other ends), each with its own church, piazza, and historic core.
The area stretching from Giarre to Catania (Acireale, Acitrezza, Acicastello), Taormina (Giardini Naxos, Fiumefreddo and seaside resorts such as Fondachello, but somehow all coastal villages), the immediate Riposto and the charming Torre Archirafi (not too far away from Carruba), offers a variety of cultural, historical and touristic attractions. However, excluding the biggest and most popular places, the remaining part is not otherwise subjected to foreign clout, which in my opinion makes it even more interesting. English isn’t used much by people here, especially by the older folks.
My family might take a moment to decipher your words, my grandma transcends the need to. They are getting better and better though since we started.
Having been a helper myself, I have an overall idea of what it’s like to be treated and I will do my best in trying to make your experience as enjoyable and varied as possible. Apologies in advance for our possible lack of organization :)
See you soon!
Limited internet access
We have pets
We are smokers
Can host families
25 hours a week, 5 days a week