Italia Part I: A Week on an “Organic” “Farm”

Have you ever heard of Workaway? It’s this great site that connects you with people who need help at their place of business (mostly farms, hostels, and touristy places). You can go work for them for 25ish hours per week and in return, they’ll provide food and housing. Sweet deal, right? You get an essentially free experience and at the same time, you get exposure to culture and a new way of life. Pete and I signed up for a workaway experience in Abruzzo, Italy at a little organic farm. We didn’t know much about the farm other than they had bees, some animals, and that they are also a guesthouse where people can stay for a relaxing break in the national park. We committed to 2 weeks, but were open to staying up to 3 weeks (if we liked it).

After taking an overnight ferry from Greece, we arrived in Italy and took a couple trains to the city of Torre d’Passerie. Elida, one of the farm owners, picked us up. Elida was very sweet and spoke English quite well. We drove 16 km to the farm. The drive was beautiful! Rolling hills dotted with farms and small cities, huge mountains in the background, and everything was very green. At this point, she told us that Torre d’Passerie was the closest town. I was a little worried because that meant we were realllllly far from any sort of store or city. I am not particularly fond of being so disconnected. But, the scenery was beautiful and there was not turning back.

We arrived at the farm and met Marino. Marino was a lot older than I expected! He was in his late 60s. Elida was probably 50 or so. They are married and lived in the main house:

Here are some other pics of the farm:

Incredible, right!? I could never get used to a view so beautiful.

We got settled into a very cute little room and then went back to the main house for dinner. Incredible pasta! It is so simple and minimal sauce. I feel like the US puts a ton more sauce than necessary. We got to know Elida and Marino a little better. They were very nice and easy to talk to.

The next morning, we slept in a little bit because we didn’t sleep at all on the overnight ferry. We had bread (that must have been really “healthy” because it was super stale and hard) and jam for breakfast. They offered us tea for breakfast, but I didn’t like any of their teas, so I just said I preferred cold water. Marino thought this was crazy because they never have cold drinks in the morning. I explained that we always have cold drinks in the morning (juice, milk, etc). He never really accepted this idea of having cold drinks in the morning. Every morning, we had this for breakfast.

Workaway is a little awkward because you’re working for these people you don’t know and you have no idea what’s expected. Starting new jobs is a lot easier because there is at least some expectation and explanation of what’s going on. We never really knew what was going on on the farm, but hey, we don’t speak Italian and things never completely make sense in foreign countries.

On that first day, he had us move some firewood from behind one house to the side of the main house. He told us to go “slow, slow” and “take it easy.” So we did. Marino had to lay down because his back was hurting, so we took an hour to make 3 small trips. At one point, we sat down to “rest” and stay out of the sun. Suddenly, Marino came out and was all weird about us sitting down and he rushed us to finish the job. It was so strange because we never knew what he expected.

Then I trimmed some vines that went on to the sidewalk while Pete raked some leaves. Then it was time for lunch. Meals are so.dang.long. in Italy! Like at least an hour and a half!

We didn’t really work more the rest of the day. We had an amazing dinner with some guests (Marino’s son, the son’s wife, and their two friends). Dinner with Italians is hilarious. They would be yelling at each other intensely for the entire time! I loved it. Having the four new people was a blast. A day or so later, an Australian guy came (he was born in Italy and moved to Australia at 2 years). It was great to speak English with a native speaker.

One day, we were told that dinner would be very special. It was going to be a very nice fish soup. The two chefs were going to come and make the dinner especially for everyone there. I got nervous. I don’t like fish. But, the night before, they served two fish dishes and they were incredible, so I tried not to be too worried. And Pete said that he’d had fish soup in Hungary and it’s no big deal.

Well. The chefs came and I had to run into the kitchen for a bit (they had another bigger kitchen in the other building). I checked on the cooking. Shoot–the stuff they were cooking was crazy! I was so, so, so scared. And Pete was scared too, which made me even more nervous if Pete’s not excited about what they’re cooking! My main concern was the fact that we had no access to another store to get back-up food. This fish soup was my only option for dinner. If I didn’t eat it, I’d have to go hungry till the morning! They brought out the soup:

Everyone clapped and dug in. I was sitting by the Australian and Marino’s daughter (who is so incredibly nice). Pete and I explained that we are from the desert, so they don’t have food even close to this. And then we looked at each other, and then looked at everyone else and said, “What do we do?” And they helped us “choose” which pieces to eat. They also laughed when we asked how to eat certain things. I don’t know how to eat muscles or scampi! But I did! We both did! Pete and I both ate everything they gave us. And guess what? It was delicious! Absolutely amazing! The sauce had a great kick and everything was perfect. Honestly, I would eat anything an Italian makes. I trust them completely.

The night was a ton of fun. A lot of yelling, joking and stories. None of which we understood. But it’s still a lot of fun to watch people. Here’s one side of the table. Marino and Elida are on the far right. The guy leaning forward was one of the cooks and the man on the far left was one of the guests (friends of Marino’s son). He (the man on the left) was hilarious and had one of the most classic Italian voices!

More of the table. I never got a pic of Marino’s daughter, the Australian, or Marino’s daughter-in-law. Oh well.

One morning, we woke up to the most incredible fog! I don’t have much experience with fog, so this made me very excited. Because everything was really wet, we couldn’t work (no working when things are wet or when it’s raining). I was able to get some great pictures of the fog. I don’t think they capture how thick it was, but that’s ok.

One day, Marino let us go on a walk around the area. What a beautiful part of the world!

Geez, I feel like this post is getting crazy long (A+ to those who are actually reading all of this!). There is so much more to say. But I’ll just end the story now and hope that Pete comes up with a better post about what really happened during our stay on this farm. We ended up only staying for one week because Marino had back problems and couldn’t show us how to do the things we needed to do. I’ll leave you with a list of the kind of ridiculous moments that occurred during that week:

– We spent about 3 days cutting up branches from trees that had been cut down. We bundled them up and set them aside. These branches were cut up for the specific purpose of using them to cook the pizzas.

– It took 3 people to mow the lawn (Pete doing the mowing and Marino and the Australian to “supervise”). It was a normal lawn mower and Pete knows how to mow a lawn.

– We had to clean out the grossest chicken coop ever. 3″ of poop.

– Marino loved to tell us to do things slowly, but then he’d expect things to be done faster. We could never figure out how to read him.

– Their internet was connected to their phone so we could only use it at night. I had to have internet because I’m in online classes. They got a little internet stick thing (kind of like a pay as you go flash drive). We used it one night and they said we had used too much. On the day that they told us that we needed to go early because of Marino’s back, we asked to use the internet to find a place to stay in Rome. Elida told us we could use the internet, but not as much as the night before. So we never did find housing in Rome (story to come later).

– They used to have bees, but they all died. We never got to work with the bees. That was the part Pete was most excited about. Bummer.

Anyway, I think that’s good for now! Next up will be (if Pete doesn’t do a more detailed post about the funny things on the farm) Rome and Venice and how Italy is way to expensive for us.

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3 Comments

Filed under Culture, Food, Italy, Photography, Places

3 responses to “Italia Part I: A Week on an “Organic” “Farm”

  1. I think I love this post the most so far. Workaway sounds amazing. Getting to know the people and the culture so closely like that has to be awesome. Very cool

  2. Oh my gosh that SOOO reminds me of France! It’s sooo strange staying with strangers from another country. Seriously. I remember that my “family” during my study abroad was so strange about the phone. They would get so anxious when I would call home because I was tying up the line and nobody could call THEM. (heaven forbid) ha ha Luckily there was a pay phone just down the street. I spend a lot of time in that little uncomfortable phone booth (mostly to call Jona who was at that time staying at my house with my family.) ohhh good times good times.

  3. Pingback: Instead of a Christmas Card | 2 Birds Abroad

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