Voluntary work (as described here) is primarily to enable students and young people to visit Italy for a few weeks or months, and learn about the country and its people at first hand. The minimum age limit for volunteers is 16 to 18 and they must usually be under 30, although some organisations have no upper age limit. No special qualifications are required and the minimum length of service is usually a few weeks. Handicapped volunteers are welcomed by many organisations. Voluntary work (lavori socialmente utili) is unpaid and you must usually pay a registration fee that includes liability and health insurance, and your travel costs both to and from Italy and to the workcamp. Although meals and accommodation are normally provided, you may be expected to contribute towards the cost of board and lodging. The usual visa regulations apply to voluntary workers and you’re informed when applying whether you need one. A work permit isn’t necessary.
There are over 35,000 volunteer associations, co-operatives and foundations in Italy, including some 75 workcamps organised by Volunteers for Peace. Much voluntary work in Italy takes place in international workcamps, which provide the opportunity for young people to live and work together on a range of projects, including agriculture, archaeology, building, conservation, environmental, gardening, handicrafts, restoration of buildings and monuments, social welfare and community projects. Camps are usually run for two to four weeks between April and October, although some operate all year round (you must usually apply before March to find a position the same year). Work is unskilled or semi-skilled and is for around five to eight hours per day, five or six days per week. The work is usually quite physically demanding and accommodation, shared with your fellow ‘slaves’, is fairly basic. Most workcamps consist of volunteers from several countries and English may be the common language.
Many organisations, both Italian and international, host volunteer programmes for students and young people, some of which are listed below:
- The Belgian-based Association of Voluntary Service Organisations maintains a directory of volunteer opportunities throughout the world, and the group Action Without Borders has a directory website (www.idealist.org )
- Earthwatch Europe, 267 Banbury Road, Oxford OX2 7HT, UK (01865-318 838, www.earthwatch.org )
- Italian Foundation of Volunteering (Fondazione Italiana per il Volontariato), Via Nazionale, 39, 00184 Rome (06-4748 1230, www.fivol.i)
- Mani Tese, Piazza Gambara, 7/9, 20146 Milan (02-4075165, www.manitese.it)
- National Coordination of Welcoming Communities (CNCA), Via G Baglivi, 8, 00161 Rome, (06-4423 0395, www.cnca.it )
- National Public Assistance Association (ANPAS), Via Baracca, 209, 50127 Florence (055-374 887, www.anpas.org )
- Servizio Civile Internazionale, Via G Cardano, 135, 00146 Rome (06-5580 644, www.sci-italia.it ).
In addition to workcamps, there are a variety of unpaid voluntary jobs in Italy, particularly in Rome and other major cities. Voluntary work is an excellent way to improve your Italian and gain valuable work experience, and may even be an entry to a permanent salaried job. Whatever your motive, whether it’s a desire to make new friends, boredom, or a stepping stone to a new career, voluntary work is highly rewarding. Whenever you find yourself wondering what to do, contact your local expatriate organisations – they will put those idle hands to work!
This excerpt has been republished with permission from Survival Books. Some of the information may apply to EU citizens only. If you would like to get the inside track on moving to Italy, pick up your copy of this great book by clicking here.