A volunteer vacation in Italy is a great way to get to know the country, meet people and improve your Italian. And all that without having to spend a fortune. If you are interested nature conservation or archaeology there is a great choice of very well organised volunteering summer camps in Italy.
1. Nature conservation: Legambiente, the national environmental league, runs summer camps for adults in some stunning locations across the country from April to September that run for 5-10 days. The volunteers are asked to work for 3-5 hours per day. The range of tasks is wide depends on the camp. The participants at the camp in a tiny village of Val Codera, Lombardy, will do paths maintenance in the area, repair dry-stone walls, help with the vegetable garden. The volunteers in Siracusa, Sicily, will be cleaning the coast and the sea bottom in the protected marine area of Plemmirio. While at Porto Cesareo, Apuglia, the volunteers will not only clean the coastal area but also monitor and collect data on the local jellyfish population.
Depending on the camp, participants are required to have different skills and fitness levels: if you choose a sea locations, surely enough, ability to swim and in some cases, scuba-diving certificates will be necessary; if you head to the mountains be sure to be in top form for long hikes. It won’t be all about work though: the camp organisers always make sure that volunteers have time to explore the area, understand the local ways of life, and have some fun.
The accommodation provided for volunteers is basic yet comfortable: alpine refuges, hostels, schools, a local parish guest rooms, camping sites. Prices vary from 200 to 600 euro depending on the camp and include food, accommodation and insurance. Legambiente also runs camps for families. See the full list here.
2. National parks volunteers: Many national parks in Italy run volunteer camps and programmes all year around. For instance, you can apply to become an international volunteer in the National Park of Abruzzo, Lazio and Molise here (the translation is not great!). It only costs 15 euro per day to participate but you have to be prepared to stay with small groups of people in remote places in the mountains for a few days at a time.
3. Archaeological digs: For history buffs of all ages archaeological camps offer a great opportunity to learn about Etruscan, ancient Romans and Medieval Italy first hand. The Roman archaeological group organises summer camps in different locations in Lazio. My niece went to the one in Tolfa where the volunteers live in an old lovely convent and was very happy with the experience. Prices are 250-380 euro for one to two weeks, inclusive of full board and some museum visits. The age of participants ranges from 15 to 65 years and they come from all over the world. Arrangements for families can also be made.