Jenna and I hate being tourists.
Early on in the trip we paid our due to statues, museums, popular towns and other “must-dos” until we realized there was a direct correlation between misery and tourists attractions.
It wasn’t until we taught English in Vietnam (our third Helpx of the trip) that we had a three part epiphany…
Part One: We hate being on the tourist trail and museums are expensive.
Part Two: We love meeting locals and getting to know the culture of a country.
Part Three: Help exchanges have been our most memorable experiences, food and accommodation are free, and we feel productive having daily tasks to accomplish.
Epiphany Summary: Do less touristy stuff. Do more Helpx.
So after completely blowing off that epiphany for the first 10 days of our time in Italy we finally got back to a huge reason why this trip has been so impactful; HelpX. This particular one was located in Dozza, southwest of Bologna.
If there were Hall of Famers of HelpX.net, Victoria & Davide would be among them. They’ve been a part of the program for over 10 years and have hosted – get ready for it – somewhere in the neighborhood of 500 helpers.
Yes, they’ve had 500 strangers stay in their house helping to develop the property in one way or another. Most people I know would have difficulty mustering the courage to host one. They’ve had five hundred!
And this doesn’t even count the hundreds of AirBnb guests they’ve hosted!
But the results are undeniable – their property is one of beauty and efficiency. Their residence has been expanded from a humble, single-family farmhouse to now hold three – soon to be four – extra bedrooms (for use on AirBnb), two more bathrooms, a huge common area and a private room to hold a portion of Davide’s ridiculous 40,000 vinyl record collection(!).
And all of this done with reclaimed materials from decrepit properties in the area which, combined with Davide’s incredible sense of architectural design, makes for a fascinating rustic-chique look.
The property also hosts a rowdy herd of goats, a permanently terrified group of sheep and a pig, Oscar, who from his constant excavation going on in his pen, seems to be attempting to dig to China.
There was one goat in particular, Daisy, who was born with a foot deformity which rendered her unable to run away when we tried to pet her – something all the other goats did. For this reason we liked her very much, plus I think she got some good ear rubs out of it.
There’s also a 26-row vineyard on the western portion of the property where we were lucky enough to spend an evening and a morning partaking in the annual harvest.
Let me tell you, there’s nothing quite like snipping fresh grapes off the vine in an Italian valley completely surrounded by other vineyards. It’s one of those moments you just kind of grin and chuckle to yourself, amused that this is actually reality.
Victoria, from England, and Davide, from Imola (next to Dozza), also have two girls – and calling them little girls wouldn’t do their maturity justice. Isabel, 11, and Charlotte, 9, are impressive well beyond their years.
Both are completely fluent in Italian and English – something which I still don’t think they full grasp the magnitude of. As Victoria tells it, they were never formally taught either one, there was just how Babo (Dad in Italian) talked and how Mommy talked and they picked up both without a hitch.
Victoria also thinks that the constant presence of helpers, mostly speaking English, played a roll in their development – something which also has provided them a worldly perspective normally reserved for experienced travelers.
Neither Victoria nor Davide works a full-time job, allowing themselves scheduling flexibility, but have come up with innovative ways to create income. From teaching English, to gardening, to AirBnb, to selling the occasional goat or sheep – they’ve developed a method to sustain their comfortable lifestyle while not sacrificing their valuable time to an employer.
Really just being around these type of people and the world they created was a learning experience in and of itself. It once again provided us an example of how you can create a life outside of the path most traveled – and a really good one at that.
Being that they were so far along in their development, I felt like the projects we helped out with weren’t as impactful as they normally are with earlier-stage properties – but we hope they found them helpful just the same.
We helped Davide patch a leaky roof, created a chicken-proof fence for the cabbage, helped with the grape harvest, occasionally corralled the goats and helped prep for any AirBnb guests who’d be coming into town. It was a very laid-back environment and we enjoyed our time there very much.
Victoria is also in the process of convincing Davide to join her on a road trip down the East Coast of the USA – we hope she’s successful as there are quite a few used record shops on that very route…..just sayin’ 🙂