Lonely Planet Writer

Escape to Italy for three months with a sabbatical programme

The importance of taking vacations for your health cannot be overstated. But what happens when one or two weeks stints are not enough? Now Airbnb are offering four lucky people a chance to live la dolce vita with a three-month sabbatical in rural Italy.

Grottole is a picturesque community in need of a breath of fresh air. Photo by Airbnb

Airbnb’s ‘Italian Sabbatical’ is now accepting applicants to get away from it all and go to live in the village of Grottole in Basilicata, southern Italy. For three months you will be completely immersed in a rural way of life, learning the language, Italian cooking and other skills from local hosts. It’s also hoped this programme will help rejuvenate a picturesque town with a falling population.

The area is surrounded by sunflower fields. Photo by Airbnb

You will be volunteering for the three months with a non-profit called ‘Wonder Grottole’, which wants to regenerate the historical centre, restore abandoned buildings to their former glory and develop new models for tourism and agriculture. There are only 300 people living here and an incredible 600 empty homes. While there you’ll help out in the community garden, host Airbnb Experiences yourself and help shine a light on one of Italy’s hidden gems.

As a bonus, there’s never been a better time to visit the province of Basilicata. Its capital, Matera, is the 2019 European Capital of Culture and there will be exhibitions, installations and performances through the year as part of their programme of events.

The locals promise to show you their favourite aperitivo spot. Photo by Airbnb

If it sounds like the opportunity of a lifetime, you can apply online. You must be over 18, speak conversational English and be ready to fully participate in local life and some other restrictions apply.

The Italian Sabbatical is part of Airbnb’s wider initiative to use tourism to breathe life into poor and rural areas. The accommodation giant is often accused of exacerbating the problem of over-tourism in major cities They’ve forged partnerships with lesser-known regions of China and Japan previously to help build models for sustainable tourism.