When I started the process of planning for my trip I only had about 2 weeks time between my approval and departure. because of this, I did not have time to research much before departing to Pesaro, Italy for my volunteering project. As such there were several things that I found unusual and even surprising.
To make it easier for anybody that is planning on volunteering I’ve compiled a couple of things that I believe would be useful to know.
The first thing, of course, is the culture change. This is pretty obvious and to be expected. However, knowing this and actually experiencing it once you’re here is completely different. For example- most of us, even though we come from non-English speaking countries, are still used to at least a basic level of English from the natives. Perhaps not well enough that we’d be able to freely converse but enough to communicate. This is not the case whatsoever here, in Italy. Of course, both your hosting organization and the other volunteers do speak English, but don’t expect to be able to strike up a chat with the locals. You will learn basic phrases that you can use at the store and such, in time. But the first few weeks will be hard. I’d recommend learning as much of the language as you can before you arrive, if possible.
Other than this there will be just a general cultural difference. Something that is normal for you in your home country might not be here and vice versa. but I find it more or less easy to get used to once you get past the initial surprise.
The second would be getting to know the city and region you will be staying in. Pesaro is relatively small but getting around in an unfamiliar area can be tough. Even something as simple as getting to the store can become a challenge. And since you won’t have access to internet everywhere using navigation apps won’t always be an option. In this case I find it best to rely on the other volunteers that have been here longer. At least for the first few days until you get used to the change.
Asides from just getting around I find it useful to look for places that you might want to visit in Pesaro.
Here are just a few of the places worth visiting in your free time:
- Monte San Bartolo natural park – located to the east of Pesaro with a combination of dramatic and rugged high coastline and beautiful rural plains, this park has a myriad of footpaths and trails waiting to be explored.
- Pesaro lido – Stretching from the Harbour, the beach runs for several kilometers. the sand is gorgeous and warm and the sea is inviting too – this is the perfect place for a paddle and a spot of sunbathing. Whilst Pesaro does have some fantastic sites and historic buildings, the Lido is undoubtedly a great place to visit and spend a day of relaxation.
- Gradara Castle – You can find this medieval castle in the small town of Gradara which is approximately 20 minutes by car from Pesaro. Today it stands in fantastic condition and most of the original keep remains together with the double ring of outer castle walls.
- Piazza Del Popolo – The square of the people is located in the center of the historic old town of Pesaro and features some of the cities most revered architecture. In the middle of the square is a beautiful baroque fountain and water feature that contains a series of stone statues and water nymphs. Additionally, there are several cafes and restaurants and a lot of shops on the adjacent streets.
- Ruggeri House – The Ruggeri House is one of the most beautiful and interesting abodes in the whole of Pesaro and is renowned for its fantastic architecture and intriguing flower facade. You can find this marvel of architecture on the Piazza della Liberta and although you cannot enter the building, its dazzling exterior is something not to be missed.
- Palazzo Mosca – The Civic Museum complex of Pesaro is located in the Palazzo Mosca and include the Pinacoteca and the Ceramic Museum. The Pinacoteca includes a wide selection of artwork from a range of schools including Venetian, Etruscan and Emilian. One of the most famous pieces within the complex is the Pala di Pesaro by the legendary Renaissance painter Giovani Bellini – this is one of his earliest works and is considered to be a piece of great influence.
- Piazzale Della Liberta – This square is actually a large circle and is one of the most important areas in Pesaro. Splitting the Lido into two sections, the Piazzale della Libertà features a large patch of manicured lawn and a series of public benches. The square also contains a series of trees and flower arrangements, plus the beautiful water feature with the famous Palla di Pomodoro. This is a great place to relax and take a walk whilst admiring the beautiful coastal scenery. Furthermore, from here you have easy access to the Ruggeri house and the fantastic Pesaro Lido.
You should also be aware of the prices and availability of different foods in Pesaro. Of course, there’s not much you can do about it but its best to be prepared regardless. Even though Italy is one of Europe’s biggest food producers, buying groceries here is more expensive than the EU average. So be prepared to have to alter your shopping list to accommodate your budget, for example limiting your meat intake as that is one of the most expensive products. It is also likely that there will be many products (usually processed ones) that you’re used to in your home country that will simply not be available here so you will need to adjust to what they have here. For anyone that follows a plant-based diet, there is a fairly large variety of vegetarian and vegan substitutes, though they are not cheap so it won’t be entirely sustainable on a small budget. Though there’s nothing wrong enjoying them occasionally. We do have quite a few vegetarian and vegan volunteers that seem to be doing just fine, so don’t worry too much.
I’d also recommend that you get to know your hosting organization. You can find all the information about them at the Vicolocorto website.
Other than that, just make sure to emotionally prepare for your time in Pesaro and have fun.