Diary entry May/June 2016.
After travelling Turkey with my new found kiwi travelling buddy ‘Jonny Bravo’, I arrived in Milan, Italy to continue with the workaway I had already arranged.
*Workaway is a website (https://www.workaway.info/) of which you register and allows you to set up a cultural exchange type scenario where a host will accommodate and feed you for an agreed period of time while you volunteer set amount of hours per day/week to work in exchange.
Each workaway agreement is specific to what the host agrees with the volunteer, so amount of hours to be worked and meals provided can vary but it is a good platform nonetheless to attempt to travel and have new experiences on the cheap.
The types of jobs can range from laboring, teaching English, childcare, horse training, helping at summer camps and the list goes on. There is a fee of approx $29 per year to register on the website and if you are committed to travelling and want a different experiences than ‘hostel hopping’ I would definitely recommend it.
I arrived in Italy unsure what to expect having being the first time of trying this type of thing out and feeling a bit home sick after leaving my beloved Ngati Ranana crew. Despite these thoughts I still took the flight to Italy on the grounds of ‘let’s just give it a go’ and see what happens.
The new start Northern Italy
I arrived in Turin (Northern Italy) and met another volunteer before heading to Riverolo station where the host came to collect us. We were greeted by a bubbly Irish woman (Fay) who is passionate about travel and meeting new people and the benefits this brings. She had traveled to allot of places in the world including Mexico, New Zealand and many more but most importantly she followed rugby! Fay drove us to our small village were we would be staying for the next few weeks called Santa Maria.
Santa Maria is near Arglie not far from the French/ Italian/Swiss Alps. The views from the house were amazing.
I very quickly learned how patriotic Italians are about their coffee – “if it’s not made by an Italian then it is not Italian and I don’t want one” regardless if you were using an Italian brand and following the same process…lol!
The work required of me was to build a deck for the pool and re-concrete periphery. There were 4 of us boys working on these tasks while a further 2 female volunteers would carry out in house duties such cooking and cleaning etc – It was a good set up!
Fay and her family purchased this property as a holiday home but also used it as an air b&b property and would get us ‘workawayers’ in there to help keep the place ticking along. The property is 3 stories, has a pool great outdoor dining area, 4 bed rooms, 3 bathrooms, was on the door step of a hill behind us, had very easy access to mountain bike tracks etc. but only down fall for me was that the nearest gym was around 30km away…
After working our 5 hours per day I would often disappear into the hills either by bike or foot to go exploring or contemplate life.
The evenings would almost always finish with beautiful fresh Italian pasta, pizza, salad and dessert served on the outdoor table by the fire place. There was often a bright moon and stars above making the snow-capped French Alps glow in the distance. We then would have a Vino Russo (red wine) and chat around the fire before hitting the hay.
Fay would also take us for walks into Santa Maria and the nearby town of Arglie. She even organised for us to do half a day’s work for one of guide’s of the local castle which then earned us a free Italian wood fire bbq, tour of the castle and ride on a horse and cart.
A brief history of this castle is that it was first constructed in the 12th century as fortress of the San Martino dynasty of Agliē.
One weekend we hiked up one of the local mountains behind the house. The scenery was so beautiful if it wasn’t for all the stone masonry fences and houses, you would almost think you were back in Aotearoa/ New Zealand.
We hiked past waterfalls and very scenic bush path until the clouds and rain caught us and we had to turn around and head back. On the way down Fay slipped and broke her wrist, but luckily I had my gym lifting straps to help support her on the way down and to the hospital. Fay had to have surgery but was back to herself after a few days and had to get used to her cast. A broken wrist wasn’t going to hold this tough Irish woman back.
One of my closest friends from London ‘the Māori muskerteer’ came and stayed for a few days and with Garath we went ‘touring in Turin’.
My first workaway ended up being much more than I first bargained for, Fay not only was an awesome host but has become a close friend and offered some great advice along the way.
All good things come to an end. After nearly a month with Fay and the crew in Santa Maira I then found myself on the way to Geneva to perform a haka workshop and then onto yet another workaway opportunity has arisen entitled ‘horses and swords’.