The following post was written by 12th grader, Giulia, who visited Tuscany, Italy for three weeks in April to volunteer on an olive farm. She traveled to Italy with her mother, who was born in Italy, and a couple of family friends, but the two weeks she spent on the farm, she spent alone. We asked her to share some thoughts about her journey with the readers of our blog.
When arriving in Toscana, peering out the window, I was overwhelmed with this beauty I had never before seen with my own eyes. The ever-growing lush grass was so vibrantly green. How could this place be real?
It was absolutely stunning. The hills rolled over each other, stretching far and wide with ancient stone farm houses that sat on the tops, scattered here and there, some with olive trees that looked like soft grey clouds under the immense light, covering the hills like blankets, and some with wine vineyards that wrapped around and around, entangling each other, and already placing a sweet taste on the tip of my tongue. This was the home of olive oil and wine and I knew that Toscana and I would get along just fine. I had arrived and I knew there was no need to look back.
Driving in Lucca on the winding, narrow roads that escalated up the hills, my eyes wouldn’t dare blink. This road was never ending and I couldn’t wait to see where it would take me. We were very lost, trying to find Forestaria. Every person we asked had never heard of the place. After calling Eleonora, the woman I had messaged back and forth with for the past couple months about my stay, we found it.
I stepped out of the car, short of breath with what I was coming into. Outside, there was a group of friendly, middle aged people, who all welcomed us with big smiles. They offered us glasses of wine, taken straight from the barrels at a wine vineyard near by, and delicious breads, cheeses, and meats that made you wonder why everyone didn’t live this way.
After an hour or so, Antonella, Beth, and my mother left, and although I was not “alone,” I felt this strong sense of becoming me and finding my independence, something I’ve always been sheltered from. I knew this was the trip I had been not only longing for, but also needing, and I was taking a huge step into adulthood.
The night did not end there. We stayed up late, talking about life experiences and laughing. Different languages filled the room, and I kept giggling to myself, amazed that this wasn’t just some movie I was watching, I was actually a part of this. I slept that night, filled with a wonder and excitement for what the next days would bring.
Every day at Forestaria was new and filled with an awe-inspiring beauty. I was happy. Many days we spent pruning the olive trees in the olivetos. My main job was to be the ulivagnori, which meant picking up the fallen branches and creating rows, so that later on they could come through with a machine that would crunch up everything.
I learned a lot about olive trees through Eleonora, Marco, and her father, Bruno. They taught me so much in such little time, not only about olive trees, but also about life.
I also did other various jobs containing working in the vegetable gardens, weeding, picking spinach, taking out rocks, getting soil in the forest, and labeling olive oil bottles. On rainy days (which were many), I would go do errands with Eleonora in the city, delivering olive oil, and many times, stopping at a nearby gelateria to eat yummy gelato or get a slice of thin crust pizza at Felicia’s. I was also always meeting new people from different countries, because was Forestaria was not only an olive farm, but also a bed & breakfast.
My first WWOOFing experience was a success, to say the least. I developed strong relationships with my hosts and other people I met, and through it all, I was able to find significant love in what I was doing there and who I was becoming.