The name Italy brings up so many different images, art, wine, food, museums in Florence, restaurants in Rome, Gondolas in Venice, picture-perfect ancient ruins, and majestic Mediterranean Islands. While all visitors want a taste of it all, some individuals want to do something more meaningful to make an impact on the nation. Volunteering in Italy gives individuals the chance to contribute to the nations needs, while enjoying all the magnificence Italy has to offer.
Italy is a boot-shaped peninsula in Europe that extends out into the central Mediterranean Sea, northeast of Tunisia. It is bordered by France, Switzerland, Austria, and Slovenia. Within the nations exterior borders, Italy has two independent states, San Marino and Vatican City. The capital city is Rome, which has the highest population at over two and half million people. The nation’s other most populous cities are Milan, Napoli, Torino, and Palermo.
Christianity is the country’s main religion, predominantly are Roman Catholics. Rome, the Eternal City has always been a religious capital for thousands of years and is still the center point for the world's over one billion Roman Catholics. The city is the perfect place for the faithful travelers. A visit to the hundreds of churches within Rome, with the amazing number of holy relics could be a pilgrimage all on its own.
Furthermore, Italians are arguably one ethnic class. For the most parts, ethnic Italian is simply a combination of all the local people on the peninsula at that time and those who arrived due to the wide-reaching net of the Roman Empire. Italians are, therefore, essentially a combination of the indigenous people like the Etruscans and the settlers who arrive at various times, like the Greeks, Jews, Germans, and other Mediterranean people.
The country’s temperature varies greatly depending on distance from the sea or mountains. In the summer, the northern parts of Italy are warm with occasional rainfall, while the south is often sizzling hot. The temperature is mitigated on the coast by sea breezes and in the Apennines and Alps it is almost always pleasantly cool. While the cities, rich in artistic treasures, are ideal in spring and autumn, winter in the mountains is ideal for skiing. Cold and foggy weather his the Po Plain and the central Apennines during the winter time and mild, slightly warm weather is experienced on the Ligurian coast, the Neapolitan coast, and in Sicilia.
Italy’s weather is easiest to handle during the Spring, from April to May, or Autumn from September till October. Those who desire leisurely roaming of the city streets, visiting all the aesthetic designs and architecture, will enjoy their excursion most during the cooler months. Peak tourist season starts in June and lasts until August, when the sea becomes warm enough to swim in. During December and April, Italians head off on their own vacations so quite a few shops and restaurants are closed in various cities during this time of the year. Low season can be a great time to visit for those looking for more than a vacation.
Food and culture go hand-in-hand in Italy, together defining the nation most infamously. For Italians food is not only for survival, it belongs to the national history and culture as much as Leonardo da Vinci does. Eating, for Italians does not just mean the physical act of satisfying the sensation of hunger. It’s not only calming down the rumbling stomach. The Italian way of eating is synonymous to joviality, of being together as a family, drinking a glass of wine while accepting a slice of salami or a piece of cheese. Most importantly, eating means being able to enjoy the presence of good company.
Italian Sunday lunches are the best example of the importance of eating in Italy. The great majority of Italians enjoy Sunday meals at home with family, as opposed to eating out. Another pillar of Italian food culture is its regional diversity. Every dish, even the most simple, has roots in the past and particular traditions of the region. For example, in the north a dish made with corn flour called polenta is widely eaten, but it is hardly found in southern regions. Yet polenta is widely known as a staple Italian dish.
Various resources refer to the Italian language as a member of the romance languages, and like other Romance languages, it is the direct offspring of Latin; it was spoken by the Romans, imposed on them by the people in control. Of all the major Roman languages, Italian retains the closest resemblance to Latin.
During the 14th century the Tuscan dialect began to predominate and it was not until the 19th century that the language spoken by educated Tuscans spread to become the language of a new nation. This language shift had a profound impact not only on the political scene but also resulted in a significant social, economical, and cultural transformation. Today, Italian is the official language of Italy and over 90 percent of the population are native speakers. Around 50 percent of the population speak a regional dialect as well.
In Italy, as in most of Western Europe, the official currency is the Euro. It replaced the Italian Lira in early 2000, and is the sole currency of Italy.
There will never be a moment of boredom in Italy, the culture, the people, and the country have plenty to offer curious volunteers. The pleasant weather, beautiful scenery, and varied terrain are ideal for walking, trekking, and biking, while the many mountainous areas of the country provide some of the best skiing in the world. The fabulous coastline is perfect for sailing and boating activities, and the warm, clear water ideal for snorkeling and diving. Regardless of time of year, volunteers can always fill their free time with language learning.
Volunteering in Italy will deliver a balance between meaningful service, relaxing beauty, and historical adventures. Thousands of volunteer associations, cooperatives, and foundations are found in Italy. International volunteers frequently live with an Italian host family allowing them to live the Italian lifestyle for the duration of their stay. Working at a local school teaching English is very common in various parts of Italy.