I just know that I don’t need to convince anyone on why heading to Italy is a great idea. I mean, it’s ITALY. Think about the pasta, the pizza, the risotto. Need I say more?? If you’re not into stuffing your face with probably THE most popular cuisine in the world, then Italy is also full of incredible coastlines, historical monuments, and cities rich in culture.
In short, Italy is an incredible country, and you should definitely check it out! But while this absolute Mediterranean gem has all the hallmarks of your dream destination, it’s not all bells and whistles. There are struggling traditional and organic farms, wildlife that needs protecting, and underprivileged communities.
Okay, so you’re hearing all of this and thinking ‘but what can I do about it?’ Well, did you ever consider volunteering in Italy? It’s definitely not your typical vacation but hey, we gotta give something back to the country that gave us tiramisu, right?
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- Top 4 Volunteer Projects in Italy
- What You Need to Know About Volunteering in Italy
- Why Volunteer in Italy
- Before You Volunteer in Italy
- Costs of Volunteering in Italy
- Choosing a Volunteer Project in Italy
- Top Volunteer Projects in Italy
- DIY Volunteering in Italy
- What to Expect When Volunteering in Italy
- Final Thoughts
Top 4 Volunteer Projects in Italy
- > Improve children’s English language proficiency
- > Milan, Turin, Marche
Farm Hand on Olive Farm
- > Harvesting Olives
- > Lucca
Help at an Animal Shelter
- > Housekeeping, Cleaning the Shelters, Looking After The Dogs
- > Sicily
Help in a 16th Century Farmhouse
- > Gardening, Taking Care of Olive Groves and Vineyards
- > Near Montepulciano
What You Need to Know About Volunteering in Italy
There are heaps and heaps of stellar volunteering opportunities in Italy. Whether it’s being a farmhand, doing some conservation work, or helping people in need, Italy has got them all.
Something I’ve got to stress to you, though – while Italy is the backdrop to pretty much everyone’s ultimate Euro-vacation… you, my friend, won’t be the average holidaymaker. Volunteering is hard, you’ve got to put in the hours, the work, AND do it all with a bunch of people you just met and won’t necessarily always get along with.
If you just wanna spend your time lounging on the Amalfi Coast, or cruising around the Tuscan hills on a Vespa, maybe want to consider taking a regular vacation.
If, on the other hand, you are so ready to put your volunteering hat on, this guide is for you! Luckily there are several trusty sites to help you with finding your perfect placement!
We are (metaphorically) having a full-blown love affair with Worldpackers, but, if we were to have a side piece, it would definitely be Workaway. These sites are straightforward, easy to navigate, and review-based, so you can be confident with the placement you choose.
Worldpackers: connecting travellers with meaningful travel experiences.
Why Volunteer in Italy
Aside from the obvious (gelato!!), why exactly should you give volunteering in Italy a shot? Let me enlighten you:
- Volunteering is a fantastic way to really get into the nitty-gritty of a country. You’ll be right there, alongside hardworking and dedicated locals, getting an inside look into the culture, beliefs, and characteristics of the Italian people.
- I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the food in Italy is divine. There’s no better way to experience a country’s cuisine than by enjoying a tasty home-cooked meal. Did I mention most placements include food???
- These organizations really need help from volunteers. Not just physically, but financially too. Underfunded groups rely on the generosity of people (like you!) to keep their projects going.
- Volunteering is a fulfilling and rewarding way to spend your free time. Not only will you grow as a person and get to know yourself better, it also looks HELLA impressive on job applications.
Before You Volunteer in Italy
I get it, you’re all hyped up and ready to go, but hold your horses. First things first, we’ve got to have the dreaded visa and vaccinations talk. Okay, okay, it’s not that scary, however, wrapping your head around any requirements before you leave is the key to some smooth sailing!
Most travelers who’ve come to Italy to volunteer short-term enter on a tourist visa. However, please note that if you plan to volunteer longer than your tourist visa duration, then you might want to speak to your volunteering organization to get their advice on other options.
Many countries, such as those within the EU can enter Italy visa-free. For most other countries, you will be required to obtain a Schengen Visa. This is a bit of a lengthy process and requires lots of documents and possible embassy visits, but trust me – it’s totally worth it!
Schengen Visas are for up to 90 days, you can get one specifically for Italy, or one where you can move freely within the Schengen zone (great if you wanna add a few more European countries to your itinerary!).
These visa rules of course apply to a time before COVID. And for sure, COVID-19 has impacted things, so make sure to double-check the current rules!
We highly recommend a quick trip to visit your doctor or a travel clinic 6-8 weeks before your trip! While there are no mandatory vaccines to enter Italy, they may recommend you to get Hep A and B vaccines on top of your routine jabs.
Another thing to consider is a COVID-19 vaccine. While it isn’t currently required to enter the country, many establishments, such as indoor restaurants, gyms, and museums may require proof of vaccination.
Italy at a Glance
- Official Language – Italian
- Currency – Euro | 1 USD = 0.86 EUR (October, 2021)
- Capital – Rome
Costs of Volunteering in Italy
I hate to be the one to break it to you, but sadly, volunteering in Italy is rarely free, and may even be costly. Of course, this is less than ideal BUT when you’re volunteering with a legitimate organization you can sleep easy at night knowing that every penny you’re contributing will count.
So where does it go?
Well, your volunteering costs go a long way into helping the day-to-day running of a project, paying staff wages, funding research projects, and much more! Sadly, most grassroots organizations, nonprofits, and NGOs are hugely underfunded so they really do rely on donations and contributions from volunteers.
The silver lining, you get some benefits too! In exchange for your hard work and monetary contributions, organizations normally provide you with accommodation, meals, and transport costs while you’re working with them! What they won’t include is flights, visa costs, airport transfers, and your oh-so-important spending money.
Speaking of spending money, this is 10/10 something you want to budget for (dare I say generously?). There is no point in hauling your ass all the way to Italy to not be able to splurge on a plate of authentic cacio e pepe or join your fellow volunteers for a weekend in Rome…
Choosing a Volunteer Project in Italy
I think I’ve done a pretty good job of covering all the basics of volunteering in Italy, now it’s time for the part you’ve all been waiting for – choosing your project!
Before you dive in headfirst, I urge you to think long and hard about the kind of project you will enjoy. Here are just some of the incredible types of projects you will find:
- Farm work – There are lots of opportunities to do farmwork in Italy, and not just your average farm work either, picture yourself picking olives fresh from the tree… or working in a vineyard… I am of course painting a rather romanticized version of being a farmhand. Don’t be fooled, this kind of volunteering is hard physical labor so make sure you are up to the job when you’re applying!
- Social projects – Under this large umbrella, I’m putting English teaching, community work, helping people in need, and more. These opportunities are a little harder to find in Italy, but rest assured with a bit more research you will find them (keep an eye out for DIY volunteering later on!).
- Conservation work – This is another one that may take a bit more research, but several organizations offer ethical placements that are focused on gaining knowledge and doing scientific research. Unlike other parts of the world (I’m looking at you SE Asia), when you encounter a conservation volunteer project in Italy, you can assume that the work is legit and won’t be putting the animals in harm’s way *celebration dance*.
With such a wide variety of projects, I can’t give you a one size fits all answer for how long you will have to commit. As a general rule, most places will need you for a minimum of two weeks, with social placements sometimes needing longer, especially if you’re volunteering with kids.
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Top Volunteer Projects in Italy
You’ve stuck with me for this long, and now for the ultimate reward. My TOP picks for volunteering in Italy! Yes, you read that right! I’ve done all the hard work and used my next-level expertise (I’m so humble, I know) to make this epic list for you. So, keep reading!
- Opportunity: Improve children’s English language proficiency
- Location: Milan, Turin, Marche
If you’ve got a knack for teaching children and a love for the English language, being a tutor is the perfect way to travel and get to know a fantastic host family while you’re at it.
This and so much more awaits you at this Global Work and Travel Volunteering Program in Italy. You’ll feel just like a local during the week while you get to explore more of the stunning landscapes around you and meet other travellers on the weekends.
The best thing though: you hardly have to plan anything. Global Work and Travel assists you in finding the perfect host family as well as a 24/7 support line. You’ll get help with sorting visas, airport transfers and an online Tutor course.
The duration of this project is 2-12 months. You’ll generally be tutoring in the evenings from 15-30 hours a week. Did we mention you’ve got an included 2-night trip to either Oktoberfest or Ibiza? This deal just keeps getting sweeter… Don’t forget your camera!
- Opportunity: Harvesting Olives
- Location: Lucca
I can’t think of anything more idyllic than working on a small farm in the Tuscan hills harvesting olives, can you?! This position is to join a husband and wife team that runs a quaint farm in Lucca. Your main duty will be to assist in harvesting the olives which is a simple, but tiring, task.
The hours are 8:30/9am until 5pm with a lunch break, and two days off. Depending on the weather, your days off may or may not fall on the weekend. That’s farming for you! All volunteers live in the same building, and the food is provided, but you’ll be expected to cook so don’t forget your chef’s hat!
- Opportunity: Bottling, Labeling, Touring Guests
- Location: Assisi
Urrrrrm, did I just die and go to volunteer heaven?? Volunteering? In a winery? Sign. Me. Up. This volunteer placement sounds amazing!
You will be living on-site, in a shared dorm, in the breathtaking Italian countryside. There’s free lunch and dinner included, and I can only imagine how delicious that’s going to be. All this for 30 hours of help a week, and one day off.
This placement is great for social butterflies because you’ll be interacting with guests on the winery tours and be needed to assist with tastings. Aside from that, you will help with the bottling and labeling of the wines, and keep the garden nice and tidy. I dare say you can turn the charm onto your hosts and convince them to give you a taste of wine, too!
- Opportunity: Construction, Demolition, Plumbing, etc.
- Location: Province of Pisa
Like most old buildings, this fantastic 400-year-old mansion needs constant maintenance! This position calls for people who are either specialized in electricals or plumbing or can help with building, demolition, carpentry, and other similar jobs. They’re asking for five hours a day, five days a week. In exchange, you’ll get your own cozy apartment with a private bathroom and kitchen.
The role also serves as a cultural exchange, as on your days off, or outside of shift hours, you are welcome to join in on fun activities like heading to the beach, going out for dinner to a place that locals would actually eat, and just hanging out in general! This placement is a fantastic choice for anyone who really wants to immerse themselves in Italian culture.
- Opportunity: Housekeeping, Cleaning the Shelters, Looking After The Dogs
- Location: Sicily
Dog lovers, island lovers, it’s time to start packing. This animal shelter on the island of Sicily needs your help in taking care of stray dogs. You will help to clean their shelters, feed and water them, take them for walks, and do some maintenance work, like repairing fences. They also welcome people who are social media savvy and can help with photography, graphic design, and more!
They will need your help five days a week for five hours daily, and will provide you with breakfast and accommodation in a house nearby. There is plenty to do in Sicily on your days off, so be prepared to do some serious exploring of the island.
- Opportunity: Gardening, Taking Care of Olive Groves and Vineyards
- Location: Near Montepulciano
This is another volunteering opportunity that serves as a cultural exchange. You will be expected to put in five hours a day, five days a week, tending to the garden, cutting the grass, cleaning the pool, and helping out in the olive grove and winery! You will be staying in the host’s guest room and be treated to some amazing, organic Italian food.
This is a great opportunity to see how wine is produced and to learn some traditional cooking skills. On your weekends there is plenty to see and do in the area, and your host will happily take you around and show you the sights.
Not sure how to start your volunteering journey?
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DIY Volunteering in Italy
None of the above projects are doing it for you? Do not fret, as finding your own kick-ass projects is as easy as pizza pie. Many organizations do not advertise on third-party websites and use social media or their own pages to recruit volunteers. To find them, you’re going to have to put your DIY-ing hat on and hit the search engines.
A quick google-search, or scout on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook will be sure to show you plenty of volunteering projects in Italy. Or you can give your (other) favorite travel blogs a quick read to see if they have any good suggestions!
But of course, I have already given the internet a good search and have got my favorite DIY projects listed below for you!
You’re welcome. Mwah.
The International Napoli Network’s main goal is to connect international volunteers with local NGOs. They have 30 partner organizations in both Naples and Rome that cover a wide range of issues. There are seven different programs to choose from which are teaching English; after-school care; NGO support; animal care; environmental work; teaching sports; and helping/teaching special needs children.
There are a lot of options to choose from, so anyone who decides to volunteer with them will be sure to find their perfect placement! They work closely with NGOs who are focused particularly on children at risk and migrants.
Volunteer with marine scientists and students researching bottlenose dolphins in Sardinia! This hands-on placement will have you studying bottlenose dolphins in the field (science speak for in their natural habitat), collecting data, learning photo identification, and doing monitoring during trekking and snorkeling trips.
This project isn’t only for biologists or biology students, anyone who is passionate about the ocean and marine mammals is welcome to apply. You will need to be able to work long hours in the field, and be a good swimmer!
This once-in-a-lifetime volunteering opportunity will have you playing Indiana Jones himself by helping to unearth the secrets of Poggio del Molino, a Roman villa near the Tyrrhenian Sea. The villa was built at the start of the 1st century A.D. and gives an important insight into that time.
Your job will be to get down and dirty (quite literally) removing soil around the artifacts. You will also be needed to help record what the excavations have found, clean and catalog the finds, and analyze the source and age of the materials.
We love this WOOFing opportunity for anyone who is into permaculture and sustainable farming! You’ll have a wide range of tasks, including cooking, gardening, construction, landscaping, helping to create a food forest, tending vegetable gardens, hosting mindful activities, and more.
You’ll need to give 24 hours a week to the project, get free accommodation in either a dorm or a tent, plus get delicious vegan meals! The reserve is close to the Apennine mountains south of Bologna.
This goat farm, 30 minutes from Milan, has over 100 chamois goats whose milk is used to make (what is in my opinion the king of cheeses) goat’s cheese! They also raise hens for eggs, and pigs for meat. Your duties while on this WOOFing placement include your run-of-the-mill farm tasks, like animal care, milking, cleaning, and gardening.
The farm is a social farm, they work closely with disabled children to introduce them to tasks like helping in the greenhouse, baking cookies, and looking after the chickens, to help them integrate into the world of work later on!
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What to Expect When Volunteering in Italy
I am 99% sure that by this point you are raring to go and already envisioning your idyllic summer spent volunteering in Italy! What exactly should you expect though?
Well, I hate to burst your bubble because while I’m good, I’m not that good. I can, however, give you a rough idea.
All projects are unique, right? That means the type of accommodation will be too! Most projects offer you a bed in a shared dorm, but occasionally if you’re extremely lucky, you will find yourself being put up in a private room (ker-ching). No matter where you’ll be staying, you can expect to be somewhere safe, clean, and comfortable.
There will almost always be a shared common area too like a living room, and possibly a shared kitchen to prepare meals in. AND, if you’re volunteering on a farm, expect lots of glorious Italian countryside to frolic around in!
Occasionally you will encounter a project that can’t offer you somewhere to stay. But all is not lost! Budget-savvy volunteers should check out the nearby hostels or even homestays, and for those with more to spend, getting yourself an Airbnb is a great choice!
Most placements, especially those found on sites like Worldpackers or Workaway, will ask you to work 20-25 hours a week with two days off. If you’ve found yourself in a big group of volunteers, this is the perfect opportunity to bond and maybe check out the nearby towns and tourist attractions! Larger organizations might even have some (optional) activities arranged for you.
If you wanna go your own way, then some of Italy’s top sites, depending on the time of year, are cities like Rome, Florence, and Naples. For spectacular coastal towns head to the Amalfi Coast or to Cinque Terre for a cheaper alternative!
When traveling between major cities, taking the train is by far the best option. The trains are fast, safe, and comfortable. Best of all, if you book in advance online you can snag yourself a real deal! Buses are a more budget-friendly alternative, but some areas, particularly in the south of Italy, don’t have reliable or convenient bus routes.
Driving is the best way to explore little towns and villages that are more off the beaten path. Car rental is easy to find online, but it is best to familiarize yourself with the rules of the Italian road before you head out. As for renting a Vespa, this may not be the most sensible option, but it has got to be the COOLEST way of experiencing Tuscany.
Do’s and Don’ts
It’s sadly almost time for us to part ways, but before I sign off, I just wanted to give you some quick and handy tips on how to make sure you get the most out of your volunteering experience!
- Do take your sweet time in deciding whether or not a placement is a perfect fit for you! Once you’ve committed, there’s no backing out so you wanna get it right the first time.
- Do be honest with the organization (and yourself) about how much time you’re willing to commit. If that’s only two weeks, great. If it’s longer, that’s also great!
- Do always try your very best not only to help yourself, but to help out the rest of your team too! If you’re volunteering with others, you’ve gotta pull your weight. No one likes a slacker.
- Do fully embrace Italian culture and way of life! Dinner at 9pm? Kisses on the cheek to say hello? Try to embrace it all!
- Don’t be afraid to speak up if there’s something wrong, you feel uncomfortable, or you have any concerns. The organization wants you to have a good time and will work with you to sort out any issues.
- Don’t forget to have a good time! Volunteering can be challenging at times, but everyone once in a while, take a deep breath and remember that while you are there to do some good, you should also be enjoying yourself to the max!
What’s that? You want me to wrap this post up? Sorry, I was too busy packing to go volunteer in Italy because mamma mia are these placements next level. Talk about something for everyone, all with the glorious Mediterranean climate and *chef’s kiss* delicious Italian cuisine. If you’re still unsure, I highly recommend you take the time to do some research, because the perfect volunteer placement is just out there waiting for you!
I sincerely hope this post has answered any questions you might have had, and perhaps convinced some of you on what to do for your next vacation! If so, I wish you luck, and maybe I’ll see you there!
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