For the next seven days, I’ll be living between two giant mountains in the Lazio region, without running water or electricity. I feel like a contestant on Survivor—just me, my Mac-book, and nature. There’s a rolling field brimming with fig, peach, cotton apple, and olive trees; the sun sets between the mountains at the far end.
During the day, I work on the nearby Italy Farm Stay among goats, sheep, two fat pigs, a horse, chickens, and a donkey. This is an entirely new experience for me, and one of the most unique experiences I’ve ever had in Italy.
Kristin and I arrived two days ago during a torrential rainstorm, which, as I’m sure you realize, is not the best time to set up a tent. Fortunately, we had other options. But first, let me explain the lay of the land. I found Italy Farm Stay through internet research and contacted Antonello Siragusa, who coordinates the program. He explained that Kristin and I would be given a place to pitch a tent in the mountains just outside of the Abruzzo, Lazio, and Molise National Park, in exchange for 2 ½ hours of work each day. The fruit and vegetables grown on the farm are given for free to all volunteers and guests. Italy Farm Stay also offers B&B-style rooms for paying guests, as well as another type of volunteer housing, in which volunteers stay inside the actual farmhouse and receive three daily meals in exchange for five hours of work a day. This type of housing was already fully booked when we contacted Antonello, so we chose the camping option, known as Le Moglie.
Le Moglie is an abandoned farmhouse—its age cannot be determined, not even by Antonello, who was born here—with rustic camping facilities. Because it was raining when we arrived, we were given the option to stay inside the decrepit building, in a room fixed up by previous volunteers. On one hand, the room is less than tidy, and the roof looks like it’s about to cave in. On the other hand, it doesn’t leak, and it beats sleeping in the rain.
I’m not going to lie, the last two days were rough. Luckily, I have a lot of experience camping. The first night, I managed to light a fire inside a freestanding pizza oven while the rain came down. We had hot dogs. The next morning, I managed to start a fire in a rusty cast-iron stove and was able to boil a pot of water for coffee. That afternoon, the rain stopped long enough to gather a few dripping twigs and branches (Le Moglie did not come with dry firewood), enough to make a warm meal. Today the rain has held off, and Antonello’s father, Giuseppe Siragusa, says that the beginning of summer has arrived. Tonight we’ll be cooking vegetable skewers, polenta cakes, and Italian sausages over a real campfire. We’ll also be setting up our tent and getting out of the old farmhouse. Hallelujah!
Italy Farm Stay does make up for all this hardship, and quickly! In my next post, I’ll tell you all about the wine I’ve been bottling, the people I’ve been meeting, and the exquisite local hikes (provided I can recharge my computer’s batteries and get internet somewhere). Tonight I’ll sit on the terrace of the silent, old farmhouse with a glass of wine and watch the sun set between the two mountains that I’ve come to think of as my own.
Written by and photos by Mattie Bamman for EuropeUpClose.com