At the beginning of this month, we started the Europe leg of our yearlong trip. We flew from Cape Town, South Africa, to Rome, Italy, and headed north to a small village in Tuscany to start a monthlong workaway.
Workaway.info is a great website that connects travelers with work options all over the world. The travelers get to stay (and sometimes eat) for free, and the hosts get extra help with all sorts of projects from childcare to gardening to helping with small construction projects.
When we were in the planning stages of our yearlong trip around the world, we had to be strategic about where we wanted to go. We wanted to go EVERYWHERE, but it turns out everywhere is expensive.
Nate and I have both been to Europe before (although neither to Italy), so we said from the beginning that if we could find a good workaway position and use points to fly, we'd add it to the list. Otherwise, we'd skip Europe and stay in the cheaper countries like South America and Southeast Asia.
After poking around and e-mailing a few workaway positions, we stumbled across one that caught our eye.
A woman in Tuscany taught cooking classes out of her home and was looking for a couple to come and help. We immediately applied, siting my experience making pasta (I own a side business teaching classes in Chicago) and Nate's incredible knack for washing dishes (also he's a fantastic cook).
Chicca, the host, responded quickly and said she had an opening the month of June. A few emails passed back and forth, and we were set to go!
In the months leading up to our flights to Europe, I wondered if this was real. She had good reviews from other workawayers, but we didn't know this woman. We'd never even spoken to her on the phone. We had no idea what our sleeping arrangements would be like, if she would have other workawayers there with us, which days we'd be working and how long (usually workaway suggests 4-5 hours, 5 days per week).
On the day we arrived in Rome, I was honestly too tired to be nervous. We'd barely slept on two overnight flights from Africa and sleepily boarded the two trains to head her way.
But alas, Chicca picked us up at the train station in her town, Castagneto Carducci, and we immediately connected. She was friendly and bubbly, and her English was perfect.
Back at the house, she showed us our room (with our own bathroom!) and I started to relax. We're staying with Chicca and her family (her daughter, husband, a dog and two cats) in their 18th century Tuscan farmhouse, which she renovated herself using sustainable materials. She even went to Carrara to pick out the marble for her countertops, the same marble Michelangelo used to build the David.
So the house is beautiful.
Our schedule here varies as she has classes at different times throughout the week. We help her shop, prep food and conduct her classes for 10-20 Americans each time. She cooks amazing dishes with them like her family's recipe for Pasta alla Puttanesca and Semolina Gnocchi baked with butter and sage.
When we're not washing dishes and helping classes run smoothly, I'm scribbling down new recipes in the little notebook I bought and walking the dog, Janis.
The surrounding areas around the house are like a movie. Chicca gave us both bikes to use throughout our stay, so we can set off when we have down time to the beach (7 kms away), the marina with beautiful shops and restaurants (8 kms) or the market.
We can also bike down to Bolgheri, a nearby area home to world-class vineyards, or walk up to the village for pasta and gelato.
It's an amazing place, and we feel really fortunate to be staying and working here.