Save Vernazza – voluntourism project is ready to go again

Save Vernazza, non profit organisation, is ready to start its voluntourism program again and this year it includes a new activity – a wine and food tasting at sunset on a Save Vernazzafabulous terrace overlooking the beach. So for those who don’t feel like doing the hard work in the vineyards and olive groves, you can still donate to Save Vernazza by tasting local food and wine specialities while hearing all about them from the wine producers themselves…..of course there’s no stopping you doing both activities!

We had a test run with all the guides and coach drivers from the Busabout agency with whom we had started the voluntourism project last year – ‘Turisti nei Cheo wine producerCian’ (Tourists in the fields). First we spoilt them with the wine and Save Vernazza wine tastingfood event with Bartolo from Cheo winery, presenting 2 of his white wines, 1 red of which he is very proud and topping the evening off with the famous sweet wine – sciacchetra’.

Irene, our local bilingual guide and trained sommelier,  assisted and will be essential with some of the other wine producers whose English is not as fluent. It was an experience for the Busabout guides and drivers to learn about the wine making traditions, the difficulties in cultivating vineyards on terraces, the added benefit of extra sunlight reflected from the sea, the best wine to go with the local specialties like farinata, rice pie, and anchovies and……you must come along to hear the rest!

Food preparationGianni Franzi has kindly offered their terrace for the event, normally reserved for their hotel guests only, and I guarantee it will take your breath away……if not the steps leading up to it will!

Busabout Vernazza The  next morning at 7.30am we regrouped for the Turisti nei Cian project, helping landowners rebuild and restore stone walls and general maintenance in their vineyards and olive groves. It’s not easy work, just getting to the properties along the narrow trails is a hike in itself, but then these were a group of kids who had energy to spend and enthusiasm plus.



Busabout guidesBusabout drivers





Before starting a brief explanation about Save Vernazza and the importance of the work to locals, the critical state of the territory behind the village and a big thank you, as every helping hand is useful in this little community.Volunteers Cheo winery

Voluntourism Vernazza Cheo winery needed help in rebuilding their dry stone wall that had collapsed during the 2011 flood, Saverio needed  to weed amongst his vines, and Pensa had to shift rocks to begin a new stone wall. So armed with heavy duty gloves, buckets, picks and shovels and lots of water we set off for our various locations.Voluntourism


View VernazzaAnd after the hard work, a well earned picnic lunch of local specialities and wine of course! Lunch for Volunteer











So do join us in Vernazza, Cinque Terre, between now and October. The wine and food evening runs once a week, while helping in the vineyards runs twice a week and you don’t have to be a Busabout client to join in.

With volunteersSave Vernazza projects

For specific dates and bookings Save Vernazza project bookings


I look forward to seeing you here!


Every picture tells a story – Aleardo Paolucci

Aleardo PaolucciIt’s a year today since dear Aleardo Paolucci passed away and it’s only now that I can dedicate a humble blog to a wonderful man and a beautiful painter. I was introduced to Aleardo by his son Enrico (also an artist) in 1997 and have become almost one of the family. His works of art are everywhere in Pienza (Southern Tuscany) and beyond. Some paintings are even in Australia thanks to introducing him to my tour groups, who loved their visit.

Every painting tells are story, highlighting historical events, old farming lifestyles or topical issues. He was prolific, happily spending every day in his studio, working on projects or decorating his beloved Beccacervello ( Pick my Brain) property just outside of Pienza.Aleardo Paolucci



Symbol of the property name – Beccacervello

Born in 1927, he lived through the fascist period with many stories to tell, and spent most of his life as an Art teacher in Montepulciano. Very early in his career he was commissioned to do the frescoe above the door leading into Pienza. It was dedicated to the Virgin Mary as a prayer to save the town from any further bombing which it had suffered during WW11. So do look up as you walk through the town’s entrance. He was lucky to have seen the restoration of the frescoe completed 2 years ago, as exposure to the weather had severely damaged it. PienzaPienza frescoe





He was such a kind hearted man, with a great sense of humour, touching my heart and soul every time we met. We shared the same political ideas and often laughed over a satire program we both loved, not easy as he was fairly deaf so the conversations would often go quite astray!

His concern for his beloved Pienza and Val d’Orcia appears often in his paintings as do his concerns for migrants, the new technology taking people away from human communication, alongside national and local scandals of corruption and mismanagement and the current economic crisis.

He was very active in his community, organising fund-raising for AVIS (the blood donors association, not the rental car company!) enlisting Artists from far and wide to contribute works for auction. The local district flags and large banner on the gateway entrance for the various festivals in Pienza have all been done by Aleardo and will continue to wave their welcome to both tourists and locals.

Pienza stamp


He was honoured to paint 3 of the ‘Palio’ banners for the Palio Sienafamous horse race in Siena and commissioned to design a postal stamp in the series promoting tourism. For the 600th anniversary of Pope Pius 11 he created 50 beautiful works of art on his life story which are truly amazing.

Birth Pope Pius 11



Pope's friendPienza in his heart


His warmth and sensitivity abounds in his paintings as in his daily life. He constantly reflected on the changing values of today’s world, more from a pragmatic viewpoint than a nostalgic one as he had lived through some very hard years.

As always, behind every great man there is a great woman. Isabella, his wife, had been by his side forever, and understandably her life crashed around her on his parting. For those that met her, you will be pleased to hear that she is coping better now and always delighted to see me.The Widow

Fortunately I decided to buy a painting a few years back where Aleardo wrote such a long dedication on the back that I would love to display both sides. The widow is thinking back on her farm life with her husband. I love her portrait as she is so beautifully ugly and her husband dressed in the typical Sunday best waistcoat.

My favourite which Aleardo would never sell:  The monster, half fish and fowl, is eating the beautiful landscape where the young couple dreamed of buying their own home – refers to the corruption scandal at Montecchiello where a new urban development was to be built next to the medieval walled village.The Monster


I miss him, together with so many others, and today will be another sad day of mourning.



Aleardo, me, Isabella

Aleardo, Isabella, me, 2011