The main project focus in the villages of the Cinque Terre region of Italy will be to restore or rebuild the ancient dry stone walls that are iconic in this area and which illustrate the heritage of humanity, traditional land uses, and landscape design. These terraces, some of which have been dated back to 1000, do not contain imported stones and are maintained by hand. When these stone walls fail it can cause erosion, landslides, loss of plants and animals, and human livelihoods.
After taking a short uphill walk from our hotel in Riomaggiore, we approach the terraces perched above the Ligurian sea to our work site at Azienda Agricola Possa. The farm and winery are located within the Cinque Terre National Heritage Designation and belong to Samuele Heydi Bonanini (Heydi, as he prefers). Heydi has brought back the production of ancient wine and maintains the ancient dry stonewall terraces preventing erosion loss.
Volunteer work projects may alternate between rebuilding the ancient dry stone walls and vineyard terraces that are iconic to the region and working on soil recovery projects such as preparing fallowed agricultural land for future plantings necessary to stabilize the terraces, perhaps planting historical plant varieties of traditional Cinque Terre vines. The work will be labor-intensive, and we will take breaks throughout the day.
Because local conditions and needs continually evolve, please remember that detailed project plans are often finalized or revised after the group arrives and the trip leaders review the conditions at the site in light of the capabilities and special interests of the volunteers. Volunteer Trips offer the opportunity to experience the land in a unique way not available to the average tourist.
No prior experience is required; project training is provided. The work includes a variety of tasks that we will rotate around. There are two community elevators located in Riomaggiore that lead to two upper streets; no elevators at this worksite or in the hotels! You should be able to hike/walk up steep hills and streets with a day pack, climb uneven steps in the village and at the worksite, walk and work on narrow and flat hillside trails and terraces, move soil or rock with a shovel or pick, pull unwanted vegetation, carry stones weighing approximately 10-20 lbs. As always, your safety is our priority.
Look through the tabs on the left for more details about the itinerary, price, and gear list
Introduction: We are still finalizing some of the details, but the description below outlines the activities you can expect on the trip. Please note, however, that because local conditions and the work area needs continually evolve, detailed plans may be finalized or revised after the group arrives and the trip leaders review the conditions at the site in light of the capabilities and special interests of the volunteers. As volunteers successfully complete conservation and restoration activities, new activities or areas can be targeted on subsequent departures, which may result in a modified itinerary.
Just prior to each trip, volunteers will be given updated information that includes details about where their specific group will be based, and an outline of the activities which are planned. Although we do our very best to adhere to that schedule, the itinerary is also subject to change for numerous reasons beyond our control, including weather. A detailed discussion of specific daily activities will take place on the trip.
Day 1: Introductions, Orientation, and walk in Florence. We begin in Florence, Italy, known for its artistic and architectural heritage. We will meet at our hotel in mid-afternoon for an orientation meeting at the hotel, then, if timing permits, take a pleasant walk from the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore to the Battistero of S. Giovanni and the Palazzo della Signoria. Immediately following, we will have dinner together.
Day 2: Florence to Lucca to Riomaggiore, Cinque Terre. After breakfast, the group will embark on a private transfer to Riomaggiore, stopping in Lucca for a view of the historical city where we will have lunch. After lunch, we board our transportation and upon arrival in Riomaggiore, we will first meet with Heydi, our work host, to discuss the projects and expectations, along with safety requirements. After checking into our hotel, we will take a short walk up to Posso Winery where we will meet our project host and have a briefing on the project and then go to dinner.
Day 3: Volunteer Work Project in the Cinque Terre Region. After breakfast, we take the short walk to Posso winery to begin our work projects. During work hours, we will break for a lovely picnic lunch overseeing the terraces, vineyards, and sea. At the end of the day, we will walk back to the hotel and have free time before dinner.
Day 4: Volunteer Work Project in the Cinque Terre Region and Cooking Demonstration. After breakfast, we walk to the Posso winery and spend the morning working on the vineyard projects, or dry stone wall terraces. After a few hours of working, we will meet Luca who will teach us how to cook an authentic basil pesto and make fresh pasta. After this lovely lunch, we return to work. Late in the afternoon, we will return to our hotel and relax before having a nice dinner.
Day 5: Volunteer Work Project in the Cinque Terre Region and Hiking to Madonna di Montenero. This morning, after breakfast, we will hike along a stunning trail that goes up to the monastery of Madonna di Montenero. This short and steep trail runs uphill at an impressive angle for 45 minutes starting at Riomaggiore. We will pass by ancient vineyards and olive trees. The Madonna di Montenero monestary’s vantage point is about 1,000 feet above sea level. From it, your eye sweeps over the jagged Mediterranean coastline. From one end to the other, Liguria is sprinkled with lavish villas, stone-built villages, and the proverbial castles in the air seemingly lifted from fairy tales. Walking back to the Possa winery we will return to work after a tasty picnic lunch. Late in the afternoon, we will return to our hotel and rest before dinner.
Day 6: Rest Day. Optional hiking in the Cinque Terre National Park: (8,5 km, 4 hours hike). Today we will rest from the labors of our work projects. Volunteers will have the option of resting at the hotel and exploring Riomaggiore and the other Cinque Terre villages by train on their own or hiking with our local guide in the heart of Cinque Terre. The Cinque Terre Trail is located in the Parco Nazionale Delle Cinque Terre and passes through several beautiful villages. Hiking along, we will focus on the cultural and natural resources that our guide shows us. We depart from Riomaggoria and will follow the stunning “Lover’s Lane” path to Manarola along the coast. After a short visit in Manarola, we will then proceed along the “Blue Trail” passing by the small village of Corniglia, ending in Vernazza. We will have time in Corniglia to look around and eat a crunchy “focaccia” before taking a train back to Riomaggiore. Rest time and then dinner.
Day 7: Volunteer Work Project in the Cinque Terre Region. Today is our last day working with Heydi at the Posso winery. We will continue with our work on the dry stone walls and the vineyards in the morning, enjoy a picnic lunch and then work until late afternoon. After work, we return to our hotel and have free time before dinner. We take time to thank Heydi for hosting our work projects with ConservationVIP and sharing with us the heritage of the terraces and vineyards of historic Cinque Terre.
Day 8: Transfer to Florence. After breakfast, and possibly a bit more volunteer work, we board our private transportation and drive back to Florence. Along the way, we stop in Porto Venere, a surprising village with a thousand pastel colors and the castle Doria where we will wander the small alleys of the village on the way to lunch. After lunch, we board our transportation and continue into Florence to check into our hotel. We enjoy a last walk around the city and celebrate at our farewell dinner.
Day 9: Arrivederci to our traveling companions as our trip ends after breakfast. Volunteers are responsible for providing their own transportation to their mode of return travel. Volunteers may choose to fly home from Florence, or they may travel by plane or train to other cities within Italy for extended stays.