Volunteer

We offer accommodation for up to 14 guests, breakfasts, dinners and cooking classes, and have a large vegetable garden and chickens to look after, among other things. So during tourist season (spring to autumn) we need some extra help! Recruiting staff in Istria is extremely difficult as there is a labour shortage, especially in summer. The rural population is very small, and many young people have left to seek employment abroad. So we offer ‘working holiday’ placements to volunteers from around the world, while also employing people when we can.

We look for people who will really enjoy living and working at Bolara 60, people who bring a positive attitude as well as useful skills. It is an opportunity to learn how a rural guesthouse works, to develop your cooking, gardening and housekeeping skills, perhaps in a completely new context, to meet guests from near and far, and to spend time in a beautiful peaceful rural area, learning about food, culture and society in Istria. The placement will suit people who really enjoy meeting new people, who want to do and learn about everything that Bolara 60 has to offer, and who are ready to get stuck into any job, hard-working, reliable and self-motivated.

In 2020 we need volunteers from 24th April to 8th November. The minimum placement length is 4 weeks, and we give preference to those who can stay longer (5-8 weeks). We can only accept volunteers on placements shorter than 4 weeks if they have worked here before, or if they are bringing specialised skills to do a specific job we need help with, for example getting the vegetable garden going in spring.

We always need one volunteer and for some of the season we need two. Volunteers of the same sex need to be able to share a bedroom if necessary. Friends and couples are welcome to apply as pairs. In this case both people need to meet our criteria, and pairs need to be very happy both working together and separately. We organise placements to overlap so that new volunteers can learn the ropes from the previous volunteer(s).

If interested, please read on and then apply as soon as possible if you meet the criteria. We will start the process of shortlisting and interviewing on 1st February 2020.

The role

Volunteers have specific responsibilities which add up to a full-time job. In return we provide accommodation, full board, a contribution towards travel expenses (a flat 75 euro per person per week worked), opportunities to explore the area and hopefully a memorable time in Istria full of new experiences and learning opportunities.

In general volunteers have one full day and two afternoons off each week. Work may start relatively early (7am) or late (10am) in the mornings. After a lunch break the afternoon’s work will be from c.3pm to 5 or 6pm, and you will also be asked to help on one or two evenings a week when we are providing guest dinners. Working hours need to be somewhat flexible depending on how busy we are: some days it will be less and others more. Every week is different, depending on the season, weather and number of guests arriving, staying, dining and departing.

Here is an outline of the volunteer role. Please note that you would usually be sharing these jobs with another person: doing them together, dividing them up, or doing them on alternate days. More specific details of daily and weekly responsibilities are provided to volunteers on arrival, with plenty of guidance, so you know what is expected.

BREAKFASTS

Every day when we have paying guests in the main house (up to 7 times a week, depending on the season): Laying the table and setting out the breakfast on the terrace / in the dining room, making more coffee etc as needed and interacting with guests. Afterwards clearing away breakfast, leaving terrace/dining area and kitchen clean and tidy. Making or helping make the yoghurt, granola, sourdough bread and jams which we serve for breakfasts.

CLEANING

On days when guests are leaving and/or due to arrive (3 to 5 times a week, depending on the season): Cleaning bedrooms, bathrooms and communal areas: hoovering, mopping, dusting, window-cleaning, laundry, ironing, bed-making, bin-emptying, sweeping etc. Cleanliness is extremely important in a guesthouse, so cleaning must always be done impeccably.

GARDENING

Weeding, watering, sowing, planting, pruning, cutting the grass, harvesting crops etc (usually 2 or 3 times a week). We have a large vegetable garden, herb patches, fruit and olive trees, courtyard area, a meadow and lawn to look after. Exact jobs will depend on the season. In spring and early summer we are busy growing vegetables from seed, planting out the garden and weeding. In summer the focus shifts to cutting the grass and making haystacks, watering, harvesting and planting out autumn crops. In late summer and autumn we process our harvests (eg tomatoes into passata), cut back the lavender bushes, and eventually prepare the beds for winter.

DINNERS

On days when guests have booked dinners (max 2 times per week): Helping prepare the food with Anna during the afternoon. Laying the table and helping plate and serve. Clearing away and washing up.  We serve three course seasonal dinners with aperitifs and wine. The style of cooking is unpretentious and rustic, Mediterranean-leaning, full of vegetables, and using as much produce from our own garden as possible. We also serve meat and fish, often using the outdoor grill and indoor fireplace to cook. Volunteers will learn a number of recipes and techniques.

COOKING CLASSES

On days when guests have booked classes (max once per week): Helping set up the kitchen and cooking spaces. Assisting Anna teach for example by getting ingredients and kit ready and helping guide guests. Laying the table and helping serve and clear the meal. Washing and cleaning up during the class and afterwards. Our classes are usually heavy on vegetables and light on meat and fish. We often make pasta, mezze-style dishes, soups, breads, salads and fruity desserts. Classes are participatory – everyone gets stuck into the cooking together – and the style is informal.

OTHER JOBS

Our volunteers look after the chickens – letting them out and putting them to bed, giving them feed and water, collecting the eggs, cleaning out their house, etc. Other jobs depend on the season and people’s particular skills. They may include log-stacking, hay-raking and other outdoor jobs; carpentry, painting and other DIY jobs; making preserves to stock the larder – herb pestos, cordials, liqueurs, jams, pickles, bottled fruit etc; helping the neighbours with their harvests – potatoes, corn, grapes, olives; helping us forage and process elderflowers, wild garlic and wild asparagus in spring, and rosehips, juniper and nuts in autumn.

Living at Bolara 60

Volunteers are part of the family at Bolara 60 – they eat meals with us and our guests and use all the communal spaces. We encourage volunteers to get to know our guests and neighbours and to initiate activities they are particularly interested in, whether cooking, gardening or DIY projects.

We are also keen for volunteers to get to know the area, so if you don’t have your own transport we’ll make sure you join us for occasional trips out and about, for example to local restaurants, markets and food festivals. We try to make at least one excursion a week.

As members of the household we expect volunteers to help take responsibility for general day-to-day life at Bolara 60. This means, for example, taking turns to prepare and clear away our own ‘family’ meals, helping keep communal areas tidy, keeping their own bedroom and bathroom clean, and generally being pleasant house-mates!

Time off

Each week at Bolara 60 is different due to varying numbers of guests, dinners, garden needs etc. So at the start of each week we look at the diary and confirm the plan for the week. This is when we decide who is having what time off. Usually volunteers will take off one full day and two half days (usually afternoons) each week. If there are two volunteers this will mean taking some time off together and some time off separately so as to cover for each other. We do not monitor exact working hours but instead agree what work there is to be done each day and then largely leave volunteers to get on with it, managing their own time.

Paddling in the sea

There is no public transport to our village. Some volunteers bring or hire their own car so that nipping out to the seaside is easy and daytrips further afield are possible. Others soak up the atmosphere in our immediate area and take opportunities to join us on excursions. There are several lovely walks and cycle rides right from our door. We have bicycles volunteers can borrow, and also a small car which volunteers who are over 25 and experienced drivers can use occasionally.

Our previous volunteers have done the following with their free time:

Walking up to picturesque Grožnjan (45 mins each way and a very pretty walk), where there are cafés, bars, small galleries and great views, or further along the Parenzana (a dismantled Habsburg railway line connecting villages in the hills, now a pretty walking/cycling route).

Borrowing our bikes. Livade (10km east mostly along flat white road) has restaurants and a café. From here you could then climb the hill up to medieval Oprtalj or Motovun – both very steep but great views at the top, plus restaurants etc. Or you can head west to Novigrad along the gravel road (19km) and take a dip in the sea.

Chatting to our guests and neighbours over coffee or wine.

Joining our neighbours for their potato, grape or olive harvest, or to help them with big preserving sessions or foraging for berries and herbs (all very seasonal activities).

Joining us when we go to Novigrad for shopping. The farmers’ market is a friendly place and if time we often combine these trips with a quick coffee or dip in the sea.

Joining us for trips to local agrotourisms, food festivals and monthly markets, occasionally to friends’ houses for dinners and parties.

Cooking or baking something they fancy cooking.

Using their own car to explore Istria’s coastal towns, swimming spots and hill-top villages, plus nearby Slovenia, Italy and islands. We can provide lots of tips.

Catching up with their other work (for example academic reading and writing).

Relaxing with a good book under a tree.

Terms

  • Volunteers must meet all our essential criteria and preference will be given to those also meeting some of our preferred criteria (see below).
  • Generally the longer a volunteer stays the better, both for them and us. You need time to settle in, to learn the ropes, to make relationships, and to pick up speed. Therefore our minimum length placement is 4 weeks.
  • We sometimes host two volunteers at a time. This could be a pair who come together, or we may recruit two people separately. If rooms are tight this may mean sharing a room with another volunteer (of the same sex). We have one large room with two beds. Occasionally we need to accommodate a volunteer in the office, which is small but is a pleasant private space with a proper single bed.
  • Volunteers must be 21 or over. (In exceptional circumstances we may consider younger.)
  • Full bed and board provided.
  • Nightly tourist tax paid to the local authority on volunteer’s behalf.
  • Volunteers make their own travel arrangements to/from Istria. We can collect from a nearby airport (ideally Pula, alternatively Trieste or Ljubljana) or bus/train station (Novigrad, Koper or Trieste) if needed. Volunteers must have their own travel insurance.
  • We will reimburse travel and other expenses at the flat rate of 75 euro per week worked.
  • We do not offer employment or salary. This is a voluntary position for a ‘working holiday’.
  • We reserve the right to terminate placements at any time in the event of misconduct at Bolara 60 (eg dishonesty, theft, inappropriate behaviour, wilful damage to property).
  • If a volunteer is unable or unwilling to do jobs required of them, we will try to find a solution or compromise which works for all. If this is not possible we will terminate the placement.

Selection criteria

Our volunteers must meet all essential criteria. Preference will be given to those additionally meeting some of the preferred criteria.

ESSENTIAL

  • Able to stay for 4 weeks. (We only consider shorter placements in exceptional cases.)
  • Positive and enthusiastic attitude: very happy with the whole role description and terms; willing to work hard and to learn new things. The placement will not suit those who are perfectly able to clean bathrooms, or weed for several hours, but get grumpy doing so! It will suit people who really want to be here because they want to do the things which the placement offers.
  • Professional and reliable: able to follow instructions, pay attention to detail and learn new systems quickly. Running a guesthouse means maintaining quality standards all the time, especially for food service, hygiene, tidiness and cleanliness. Sloppy work and unfinished jobs are not an option!
  • A good people-person: able to easily fit into life at Bolara 60, including working with us and other volunteers, interacting with guests, and being open, smiley and approachable. That volunteers enjoy meeting new people and chatting over meals is really important to us; Bolara 60 is a very social space during the season.
  • Independent, self-motivated and efficient: able to take responsibility for own work and manage own time effectively. We need to be able to rely on volunteers to learn the ropes and then get on with their jobs efficiently, without micro-management.
  • Practical and physically fit: willing and able to do a lot of physical work such as cleaning, gardening and cooking (which may require hours standing) each day. The placement will not suit those who prefer more gentle or sedentary work; it is a physical role, every day.
  • Fluent in English.
  • Aged 21 or above.
  • Some relevant experience: eg waitering, cooking or cleaning work in a café, restaurant or hotel, other professional food experience, vegetable growing or gardening experience, previous ‘wwoofing’ or other relevant volunteering. It does not have to be a lot, but we will not recruit people without any relevant work experience. Please note that specific skills will be particularly useful at particular times. For example in spring and early summer volunteers particularly suited to gardening will be favoured, whereas in high summer and early autumn proficiency in cleaning, cooking and waitering will be more important.

PREFERRED

  • Significant relevant and solid work experience – see above.
  • Additional potentially useful skills, eg woodwork/carpentry, sewing/craft skills, wild plant identification, chicken-keeping knowledge, HACCP, plumbing or electrical skills, car/bicycle/machinery maintenance.
  • Able to stay for 5-8 weeks.
  • Some Italian, Croatian or German language skills. Most people in our part of Istria speak Croatian and Italian; the older generations tend not to speak English. Many tourists in the area are German-speaking.
  • Full and clean driving licence. It is helpful if volunteers can run occasional errands for us.
  • Worked at Bolara 60 before!

Further information

Make sure you have a good look through our website. For more insight into life at Bolara 60 check out our Facebook page and Instagram. To read testimonials from previous volunteers, see the bottom of this page. And for more information on the region, see here. If you have any remaining questions please don’t hesitate to ask us.

To apply

If you are happy with everything you have read so far, and meet all the essential criteria, please send a letter (max 1 side A4) and a supporting CV (max 1 side A4) to anna-at-bolara60-dot-com in which you cover:

  • How you heard about Bolara 60.
  • A bit about yourself, your background and your current occupation.
  • Why you would like to volunteer at Bolara 60 and what you would most enjoy doing here.
  • Why you think you’d be a good fit here.
  • What particular skills and experience you have which are relevant to the role. Please be very specific, including dates and periods of employment, whether part-time or full-time, dates and names of qualifications, levels of skills. Use your CV to make this clear.
  • The length of placement you can commit to.
  • The periods in which you are available. If there is only one short window, please provide exact dates. Or, preferably, if you are available for longer please indicate during which periods between 24th April and 8th November 2020 you could come. The more flexible you are, the more likely we can fit you in somewhere.
  • Your nationality, place of residence and date of birth.
  • Your full contact details including email and phone number.
  • The names and contact details for two referees who we may contact. At least one should be a current or past manager/supervisor.

We will hold interviews, usually by Skype or similar, during February. So please make sure your application reaches us by the end of January. We expect to be able to make all placement offers by 1st March. However if we do not have enough suitable applications by then we will continue to accept and assess applications until we have recruited enough volunteers for the season.

Thank you for your interest! We hope you will apply….

[Please note that if you enquire about volunteering or send us an application we will keep your name and email address on file so that we can let you know about volunteering opportunities here. Just let us know if you’re no longer interested. Read more about how we handle personal data here.]

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What our previous volunteers say…

“It was a wonderful and enriching experience to spend time at Bolara 60. The setting is tranquil, and the place and people are very inspiring. Anna & Matt are super helpful, welcoming and you will feel at home straight away. For someone that loves gardening and cooking this is the perfect placement! You get to help Anna in the kitchen, and there is a wonderful garden where they grow an abundance of fruit and vegetables. Nothing nicer than going to pick fresh lettuce and having it in your salad! Your stay here will be memorable and you will come back telling all your friends to go visit Istria, this wonderful part of Croatia.”

Shelly, Galway

“Spending a few weeks in rural Istria was an amazing opportunity. I felt healthy and happy. I could appreciate the immediate beauty of the hills from my window and the incremental growth of the plants we started in the ground. That was hugely satisfying. I learned so much, many unexpected lessons, like how to wax a floor or care for vintage furniture, but also the importance of good relationships with neighbours and respect for local heritage and culture.”

Keelin, Cork

“This is my favourite ‘holiday’: staying in an old restored house in a beautiful remote area, combining work and free time. On my return home, I realised I felt deeply relaxed. I enjoyed the varied tasks from gardening to kitchen work. It inspired my own cooking and I can’t wait to start growing more vegetables! I enjoyed the communal life with Anna, Matt, the neighbours and guests. I carry with me beautiful memories of peeling and cutting quinces with the neighbours, picking juniper berries, preparing delicious dinners (including fireplace cooking), watching the neighbour making gnocchi, visiting Trieste, and walking to Grožnjan to see the sunset.”

Francoise, Normandy

“Before coming to Bolara 60, I had worked in kitchens, as a cleaner, and done some labouring, but never really enjoyed them. After my stay, I didn’t really want to go back to any of those jobs (I did though), because I knew they’d never be as fun as they were in Istria. Bolara doesn’t just offer work experience – I got insights into local cat drama, learned how to build a woodshed, maintained pomegranate trees, and helped the neighbours make wine. If you like learning things you wouldn’t elsewhere (like how to stop squirrels stealing your walnuts) and helping make delicious food in a beautiful house, then I can’t recommend working at Bolara 60 enough.”

Wilf, Devon

“I had two brilliant stays at Bolara 60. It was a great experience to see the landscape and produce shift even while I was there. It’s a special part of Croatia – much less touristy than the coastal cities, with its own history and Venetian influence. I was able to get involved in everything from planting seeds to helping prepare for guests’ arrivals, to assisting with Anna’s cooking classes. A volunteer placement with Anna and Matt would suit anyone looking to switch off from the pressures of modern life in a beautiful and lesser known part of Croatia.”

Anna, Bristol

“Going to Bolara turned out to be a great decision and one I would thoroughly recommend and gladly do again myself. Anna and Matt are very interested in local life and as a result I experienced life there from a unique perspective. I got stuck in right away and never felt like a tourist. There was lots to do but without pressure and I was always able to visit the coast and other places. Food is central to Bolara, and with that comes great conversations at mealtimes. Anna and Matt also encourage volunteers to create new dishes and take on board ideas for their home. You will be sad when your time there comes to an end!”

Diarmuid, Dublin

“I loved my time at Bolara 60. Anna & Matt are generous thoughtful hosts and made me feel like part of the family. Their next door neighbours are also so friendly and lovely to chat to. The house is located in such a beautiful peaceful place but there are also many attractions nearby to explore on your time off. I learnt so much here and it’s an ideal place if you want some time away from the hustle and bustle and live more in tune with nature.”

Caitriona, Cork

“Volunteering at Bolara 60 was a hugely rewarding experience: I learnt an enormous number of new skills, very fast, in a friendly and supportive atmosphere. It is challenging, sometimes non-stop, and hard work so not for the faint-hearted, and with huge bonuses of a beautiful setting and gorgeous food and company. And you couldn’t ask for better hosts: Anna and Matt are interesting, and interested, people, who really care for and look after their volunteers. I highly recommend Bolara 60 as a place to volunteer!”

Eleanor, London

“Bolara is a once in a life time opportunity – learning lots about how important food is in bringing people together and learning the ways of how to host, cook and looking after such a special place from the wonders that are Anna and Matt!”

Beth, Surrey

“I thoroughly enjoyed volunteering at Bolara. It was incredible to be exposed to the rustic cuisine of Istria, to taste different flavours, and have the opportunity to serve guests, work in the garden and fully participate in the life of the guesthouse. Anna and Matt are warm and accommodating and really treat you like an equal and important member of their team. I’d highly recommend it to anyone who has an interest in working in hospitality or working close to nature.”

Sarah, London

“[I most valued…] Anna and Matt’s incredible hospitality, the beautiful relaxing place and area, learning a lot from Anna, meeting the other volunteers, the cute chickens, the neighbours, and of course the food!”

Tamar, Olesh, Israel

“[I most valued…] the discussions over breakfast, lunch and dinner, be them with or without the guests; the hands-on time spent in the kitchen under the careful tutelage of Anna; learning about the plants grown in the garden; the trips to the nearby markets, festivals and konobas; the long walks exploring the surroundings of Bolara; the opportunity to be really involved in everything in the household; feeling like a family member.”

Laura, Tartu, Estonia