From the moment I arrive in Italy I curse myself for not having made some effort to learn the basics in Italian. Understanding a wee bit and being understood would’ve gone a long way. Despite the communication problems and the Italian propensity to live up to their stereotype of being hotheads, I still have a soft spot for the country. It’s bemusing to see grown men throw tantrums when you can’t understand what they’re saying – you just have to let them be a bastardo about it and step aside. Another stereotype they live up to is their love of food and it’s this (along with the beautiful women) that’s the biggest temptation for me to stay longer. During the two weeks at La Città della Luce ecovillage/community near Ancona, I don’t think I’ve been as well fed in all my life. The workdays are long and often hard but the abundant, fresh, organic food makes up for it.
La Città della Luce is non-profit community/reiki centre home to around 25 people. They open to the public at weekends to do seminars and courses and there’s always a lot of work to be done. It takes a bit of getting used to the norms of the place, like hugging everyone in the morning (I don’t enjoy speaking to anyone in the morning nevermind hugging them) but the vibes are good and people are welcoming. Most people speak English but to their ear I may aswell be speaking Chechen a lot of the time if I don’t consciously slow down, for the Irish accent is something many of them find impenetrable. Luckily a blessing comes the day after I arrive in the form of Justina from Lithuania, who recently spent months working in an Irish pub in Rome (a Paddy-compatible Lithie!) and I’m free to communicate with another human being with ease once again.
I highly recommend using HelpX (or something similar like WWOOF) as a way of getting to know other ways of living through first-hand experience. It’s such a great tool I’m surprised more people don’t make the most of it (especially the unemployed and those who love to travel). Some wonder if only working for food and board is not just simple exploitation but that’s not the way I see it – you work a reasonable amount of hours every day while contributing to something you can learn from while having the freedom to stay a short enough time to make the most of it. And in places like La Città della Luce, most of your needs are well catered for. My apprehension at leaving such a comfortable existence leads me to question if I could be arsed hitching/sleeping rough all over the ex-Yugoslav republics on my way to Turkey, so a couple of days before I leave I realise that the direct ferry from Ancona to Greece is the better option (I’m still interested in exploring the whole of the Balkans…but it’ll have to wait for another time). In many ways it would have been easier to stay in Italy, try to learn the language and settle down for a bit, but I’m keen to leave tired old Europe and move on.