“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, UK)
We offer accommodation for up to 14 guests, breakfasts, dinners and cooking classes, and have a large vegetable garden, olive grove and chickens to look after, among other things. So during tourist season (spring to autumn) we need some extra help! We employ people when and how we can (including from abroad since there is a local labour shortage), and also offer short-term placements. This page is about the placements.
People come from around the world to join our small team – to experience work and life in a rural guesthouse in Croatia. Whether you think of it as a ‘working holiday’, ‘internship’ or ‘volunteering’ there is plenty to do and to learn, in a rather special setting. Bolara 60 is more than a tourism business; our mission has always been to bring people together in this beautiful spot as it offers such rich opportunities for connection, collaboration, learning and creativity. It is too special to keep to ourselves!
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. We have hosted 41 wonderful volunteers to-date, including several who have come more than once and one who returned as an employee!
Our past volunteers report many benefits from their stays with us. Here are those often cited:
“A completely unique, immersive experience of living and working in a gorgeous setting where you will learn everything from cooking with home-grown produce to maintaining a beautifully restored stone house to caring for guests with warmth and hospitality. You will work hard and also get to reap the rewards by enjoying wonderful food, peaceful surroundings and being welcomed into the community.” (Rochelle, Canada)
In 2022 we are offering placements from 23rd April to 6th November. The minimum placement length is 5 weeks, and we give strong preference to those who can stay longer (ideally 8 weeks) since from experience we know that longer placements work much better, both for us and for volunteers. We can only accept people on placements shorter than 5 weeks if they have worked here before.
We aim to have two people on placements most of the time, and for placements to overlap so that new arrivals can learn from those already settled in. 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 working both together and separately.
January: Applications; deadline = 31st January
February: Shortlisting and interviews
By March: Placements confirmed
Please note that if you apply after 31st January we will probably only be able to consider your application once the initial recruitment round has ended, if we find we still have vacancies (for example if someone selected withdraws).
Placement holders have specific responsibilities which add up to a full-time job. It is hard work. In return we provide accommodation, full board, a stipend (100 euro per week worked, or 150 euro per week for those who can stay for 8 weeks), opportunities to explore the area and hopefully a memorable time in Istria full of new experiences and many learning opportunities.
Placement holders have one full day and two half days off each week, plus most evenings. 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 c.6pm. You will work one full evening a week when we are providing a guest dinner, and on one other evening you will help out by doing a few chores and making drinks for guests. 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 work. Please note that you would usually be sharing these jobs with at least one other person: doing them together, dividing them up, or doing them on alternate days. More specific details of these jobs are provided to volunteers on arrival, with plenty of guidance and support.
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 the yoghurt, granola, sourdough bread and jams which we serve for breakfasts, sometimes also the shakshuka, spicy beans and Bolara 60 French toast!
A number of daily chores such as watering plants, sweeping terraces, emptying the dishwasher, taking out the rubbish and putting away the laundry. On days when guests are leaving and/or due to arrive (usually 4 or 5 half-days week): Cleaning bedrooms and bathrooms: hoovering, mopping, dusting, window-cleaning, laundry, ironing, bed-making, flower-arranging, etc. Cleanliness and aesthetics are extremely important in a guesthouse, so these household jobs must always be done impeccably. We have high standards!
Weeding, watering, sowing, planting, pruning, cutting the grass, harvesting crops etc (usually 2 or 3 half-days 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.
On days when we offer guest dinners (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.
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. Please note that for the last two years classes have not been possible due to Covid-19. 2022 classes tbc.
Placement-holders also help look after the chickens – letting them out and putting them to bed, giving them feed and water, collecting the eggs, etc. Other jobs depend on the season and people’s particular skills. They may include log-stacking, hay-raking, olive-pruning 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 sloes, wild apples and nuts in autumn.
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 everyone living here 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. Experienced drivers can also borrow our car occasionally for independent outings.
As members of the household we expect placement-holders 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!
Each week at Bolara 60 is different due to varying numbers of guests and the changing seasons. So at the start of each week we meet as a team to 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 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 morning and afternoon.
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 people can borrow, and also a small car which those 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.
Joining us when we go out to local markets, festivals, wineries, restaurants and agrotourisms.
Joining us when we find time to socialise with friends and neighbours, in Bolara or further afield.
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 and Italy. We can provide lots of tips.
Or borrowing our car for occasional local trips.
Catching up with their other work (for example academic reading and writing).
Relaxing with a good book under a tree.
Our volunteers must meet all essential criteria. Preference will be given to those additionally meeting some of the preferred criteria.
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 placement holders, 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.
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:
We will hold interviews, usually by Zoom, during February. So please make sure your application reaches us by 31st January at the very latest. 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 helpers 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 placement opportunities here. Just let us know anytime if you’re no longer interested. Read more about how we handle personal data here.]
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“Thinking about being at Bolara still makes me smile! It’s hard work, and you’re busy but it’s constantly rewarding. It’s weeks of delicious food, great company and conversation, time outside and full of opportunity to learn new skills!”
“A rewarding, immersive experience of working in a stunning guesthouse, with lovely hosts who make sure you become part of life at Bolara.”
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
“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!”
“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.”
“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!”
“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!”
“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.”
“[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!”
“[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.”
“A fun and rewarding work placement for those who have a love for food, who are not afraid of hard work, who enjoy interacting with guests and who would like to learn new skills in beautiful surroundings.”