For those of you who want to have a travel experience that is truly satisfying, consider a volunteer vacation with PCT tours (Protect Cinque Terre.) These tours can be added to your existing itinerary plans because they are only 3 days long. Vernazza, the hub town of the volunteer vacation tour program, is one of the “Five Lands” of Cinque Terre, a collection of small towns perched on the cliffs of the Ligurian coast of Italy. The program allows you to get to know the Italian Riviera in a way you never could on your own. You will be able to join with local residents in protecting their environment while learning about the local history and culture. In addition to getting to know some of the gracious, friendly people of the region, volunteers sample the rightfully famous cuisine of Liguria. This program offers a great opportunity to see and learn about the region by experiencing daily life as a local.
“Protect the Cinque Terre” was started by a resident of Vernazza whose family has lived on the beautiful hills of the Cinque Terre for six generations. This program is designed to expose the sensitivities of the coastal landscape and to enlist the help of visitors in preserving it for future generations.
While on this tour you’ll spend three mornings working with local citizens in some aspect of landscape preservation. Work includes rebuilding the stone walls that support terraced agriculture, cleaning trails used by thousands of tourists every month, and harvesting some of the agricultural bounty grown on the hillsides around the town. All activities require a lot of energy and strength. Repairing the walls entails lifting heavy weight. Even the benign act of picking grapes (in September) can be more of a challenge than one might think. Lodging is not included in the price of the tour, but PCT can arrange your lodging in an eco-friendly apartment in town. They will also arrange tours of the town, and walking and train trips to nearby villages.
If you want to stay in a hotel nearby, there are many 3-4 star properties in the area. My favorite is the Porta Roca Hotel located in Monterroso Al mare. Most of the rooms have a balcony overlooking the ocean and the garden where breakfast is served has a view of the beach. Also, the hotel reserves umbrellas for its guest at the beach.
Along the way, the program’s hosts will share their knowledge of the area’s history, its life today, and the cuisine for which the region of Liguria is known. Organized afternoon and evening programs are designed to broaden your understanding of the local landscape, the people who inhabit it, and the culture that has grown up within it. You will be rewarded for all your hard work with exquisite meals prepared by local chefs. You will enjoy daily fresh baked local Foccacia and some afternoons have a Cinque Terre local wine tasting course! On day three there is a Cinque Terre traditional cooking course.
PCT only books tours in June and September, so it’s important to book far in advance. They take a minimum of 10 participants and a maximum of 20. Participants on the tour get special discounts (10-15%) at some local stores in town that sell jewelry, clothing, art and food, such as the local olive oil and white wine. All wares are made by the locals, so you are giving back to the community when shopping.
If you are the type of traveler that embraces local culture and you want to steer clear of eco-unfriendly activities, then PCT is the tour for you. Become a temporary member of the community, and leave the place you visit in better shape than you found it.
Written By Carla Scott exclusively for EuropeUpClose.com