Once the seat of the great Roman Empire, the Eternal City has retained an aesthetic magnificence for thousands of years that few other areas of the world can rival. Yet behind the fashionable cobblestone streets and wonderfully preserved historical monuments, Rome also has many urban problems which continuously affect the livelihood of its citizens. From volunteer work in social work and education to art and historical preservation, volunteering in Rome can be your ticket to living in one of the world’s greatest cities.
Projects & Placements
Behind its ancient surface, Rome is a highly developed modern city with an advanced economy. Still, because of its size and significance, there are many homeless and less fortunate who come to the urban area searching for economic opportunity and are left behind by society and forced into poverty. Volunteering in Rome in the areas of social work, education, and other forms of community work to bring locals access to valuable help they may not otherwise enjoy are the most common types of placements.
Architectural and historical preservation volunteer placements in Rome are also quite popular, and many programs allow volunteers to work at ancient sites within or near to the city. There are also opportunities to volunteer in Rome that are related to art and history, which allow volunteers to work at local museums and help organize events.
In order to volunteer in Rome, individuals are not required to speak Italian, for most placements. But knowing a little bit of the language will allow volunteers to experience Rome more fully. Many locals speak at least basic English, however being conversational in Italian will open up many doors to a completely immersive experience in the Eternal City.
Most volunteer programs in Rome are offered any time of the year, although summers in Rome are beautiful, but this is also the peak time for tourists so the city will be packed! Individuals may want to consider volunteering in Rome during the tourism off season if they’d like a more relaxed intimate experience in the city.
Life in Rome
History defines everyday life in modern Rome. Walking along the streets, volunteers will continuously find themselves in the shadow of ancient monuments, such as the Colosseum, Pantheon, and Roman Forum, or stumbling upon more recent (or at least less old) architectural wonders like the Trevi Fountain and monument to Vittorio Emanuele II. The flipside to Rome’s densely rich history and architectural beauty is that parts of the city can be overwhelmingly flooded with tourists in peak season. Devote some time to exploring the infinite nooks and crannies of its back streets to find the cool off-the-map hangout spots.
The city has a good metro system which will take you most places you need to go while volunteering in Rome, for a relatively cheap price. Taxis are also readily available but can be quite expensive, and often drivers will attempt to swindle you if they think know you are not a local. Since Rome is such a popular travel destination, you will always want to be mindful of your possessions and of falling into tourist traps.
Do not let the bustling nature of Rome’s tremendous popularity deter you – it is actually quite a laid back city once you move past the commotion surrounding its historical attractions. Locals tend to function at a laid-back pace and you will come to see that many shop owners come and go at their own leisure. The cultural transition will certainly be an adjustment, but soon you will find that there are few people more outgoing and friendly than the Italians, and there are few cities more utterly inspiring to live in than Rome.
Costs & Affordability
Rome is a fairly expensive city, even by European standards. However, if you learn to be a money conscious eater and shopper you should be able to lead a fairly thrifty life as a volunteer in Rome. Most volunteer programs in Rome will cover the costs of room and board upfront in program fees, so once you arrive in the city you won’t have to worry about spending too much money.
Accommodation & Visas
While volunteering abroad in Rome, most volunteers will have the option of living with a group in a flat or with a host family. Italian hospitality is something to behold, so living with a host family can be a fun and immersive experience, during which you will enjoy great home cooked meals and a consistent outlet for language practice. Private flats are a good option for volunteers too, but can be expensive. Volunteer programs in Rome will often have their own pre-organized housing options where you can share accommodation and living costs with other international volunteers.
You will need to apply for a volunteer visa if you plan on volunteering in Italy for more than three months. Your volunteer program or host organization will help endorse you through this process, but remember it is important to get an early head start on the visa process to avoid any last minute snags.
Benefits & Challenges
There is something about Rome which is indescribably magnetic. Beyond the glitz and the glamour of its monumental attractions and La Dolce Vita, history continues to breathe life into the magnificence of the Eternal City. As a volunteer in Rome you will be challenged by the language barrier, hustle and bustle of life in the city, and ubiquitous cultural differences. Yet, the whole experience will prove so rich and rewarding that these obstacles will only seem minor inconveniences compared to the greatness of volunteer work in Rome. Volunteer in Rome if you are prepared for a definitive experience as a human and humanitarian.