WWOOF Italy: Packing

This is the 5th installment of a travel blog concerning my travels to Italy. Read this one first and this one second, followed by this one before continuing. Set aside a few minutes to read this one, then dig in:

When I arrived at Vitto’s farm, the first thing he said was

“I love your bag! Small bag, small problems, I always say.”

He was happy to see my bag was compact and my items were limited.

Packing correctly can make or break a trip. When WWOOFing, you need to consider a few things:

1) There is a good shot you will be sleeping in the same place every night. You will likely have access to a washing machine or ability to wash clothes. You basically need 5-6 outfits at most.

2) There is also a good shot you will be working outside in the sun, getting sweaty and literally dirty (dirt from the garden). My dad worked construction my entire life and let me tell you, when you are working outside on Tuesday and Wednesday, that usually only impacts one pair of jeans. You don’t need more than two “working in the garden” clothes. In fact, you will probably look weird if you wear a clean shirt each day just to get it dirty in 5 minutes.

3) Utility is your best choice. Working outside doesn’t necessarily mean blue jeans and flannels. It can also mean dry fit work out clothes, sunscreen, hats, and great working boots. I wore “joggers” and dry fit work out tops every day. Also, I wore thick soccer socks and nice hiking boots to protect my feet and ankles.

4) You may need one pair of non-work clothes. I recommend jeans and a long sleeved neutral colored shirt. I wore my jeans and sweater three times the entire trip: To a bar to watch AC Milan play, to accompany Vitto while he voted for mayor, and to visit a friend for dinner. Three times in 20ish days.

5) You want pajamas and you want to wear them inside and after you shower only. Go to bed with socks, pajama pants, a warm shirt, and underwear. This allows you to strip down if you get too hot. Taking clothes off is usually easier than putting clothes on, depending on the sleeping and electricity situation.

6) I bring a “hang out” outfit too. This is the one I put on to go into town after working in the morning. This means, on average, these are not all that clean, but they are not all that dirty either. I didn’t want to look like a total slob while going to the market.

So with that in mind, pack lightly. I can’t think of a better way to do this, so here is your Buzzfeed article-ish packing list:

  • Great hiking books. Make sure they are waterproof

  • Four copies of your passport placed in four different places.

  • Ziplock bags. Great for putting your money, passport, or phone in when doing stuff around water or rain

  • Nalgene for grabbing free water in the airports and working in the gardens

  • Wallet

    • No ID, I’d just bring your passport. I have never successfully used my Texas Driver’s License anywhere outside of the USA. For the most part, the drinking age is more of a suggestion outside of the USA anyways.

    • Credit card with no foreign transaction fee. I use this one

    • Health Insurance card. I’ve never used it, but it just seems like a reasonable thing to bring, you can literally print them online

    • Debit Card - make sure they know you are traveling and know your PIN

  • Credit card that you will not carry around, but hide in your bag just in case

  • Assortment of socks, for my two week trip I brought:

    • 4 pairs of soccer socks for working outside, helps limit blisters and are comfortable

    • 3 pairs of low ankle cut running socks, they take up no space and are convenient to have

    • 2 pairs of high ankle socks, I kept one for my “nice clothes” outfit and one to sleep in

  • Underwear

  • Shirts

  • Bottoms

    • 2 pair of short running shorts

    • 2 pair of long athletic shorts, like a basketball style

    • 2 pair of jeans, one to work in and one if I needed to be clean

    • 3 pairs of joggers to work outside in, 1 to sleep in

  • Jackets

  • Warm stuff

  • Running shoes/tennis shoes

  • Ancillary Items

    • iPhone Charger, multiple chords

    • two books

    • one journal

    • one ball cap

    • Ask host - work gloves (he provided mine)

    • Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones for the plane trips and podcast/music

      • I’d recommend making a monster playlist of songs and podcast before leaving your home country

      • Also - I forgot the cable (they are bluetooth), but if you remember it, you can use them for movies on the plane

  • Toiletries

Note on the self care items

When I give advice on this sort of traveling, I usually get a little flack when I tell someone to bring 3 t-shirts for the entire trip. Then, I get even more flack when I tell them to go get some nice moisturizers and face wash. Look, people want to look nice when they travel, but what I am trying to tell you is that healthy skin, clean nails, and a well kept image goes much further than fancy clothes. You can wear dirty clothes confidently and people will still think you look great, there are literally lumberjack fetishes out there. However, if you are torched from the sun, breaking out due to traveling for 20 hours, and just sort of grimy, it really doesn’t matter what clothes you wear.

This ended up being just about right for my trip. I didn’t bring a pillow or towel, but those are both items that you may want to check on with your host. I’d recommend using your phone camera unless photography is a major part of your trip. The new phones do a stellar job and for the most part, don’t make you look like a rich person like a DSLR does. Always dress for safety, whether that is protecting yourself from using a shovel or a pick-pocket.