Working holidays on the land for international students is not a new idea. This summer, however, the Island of Ventotene in the Pontine archipelagus (Lazio) is offering young people an opportunity to sojourn gratis on one of Italy's most unspoiled islands, in return for a few hours work each day alongside local farmers.

The newly formed Communità dei Contadini di Ventotene per Terra Madre, founded in July 2013,offers a bed, meals and pocket money to those who are willing to help them for 4-5 hours a day with their cultivations of beans, peas, artichokes and lentils. The rest of the time, the helpers are free to swim, sunbathe, explore the island or take a boat trip with the fishermen to the neighbouring island of Santo Stefano, originally a penal colony.

The association is made up of three farm estates and some twenty small farmers and restaurant owners and is part of the Slow Food movement, dedicated to preserving traditional crops and non-invasive farming methods.

Prospective helpers are warned, however, that they have to be adaptable. Harvests start at dawn and so much of the work is done in the early hours of the morning. Late rising is not on the agenda!


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