Casa Cares is a meeting center in the hills of the Tuscan countryside, 500 meters over the Arno Valley. Since I arrived a year ago I sense and treasure every day how valuable are the “little things in life”. What every single person can do to be a bit happier.
Casa Cares has chosen to propose an alternative life style, a way in which humanity and nature are priorities. Our 5 hectares of woods and 4 hectares of olive tree terraces offer a wonderful opportunity to renew a sense of contact with nature. Nature is our life's foundation. I am conscious of this every day in Casa Cares. Our food plays an important role in our lives. The nutrition gives us the energy necessary to live or, according to the definition of our gardener Giordano, “What we eat is what we are”.
In our supermarkets one is overwhelmed by the enormous choice of vegetables and fruit from around the world. Nevertheless nothing tastes nearly as good as the produce from our garden. That a garden is not always a paradise is something we volunteers could sing a song about! Behind every product there is months of work: digging, weeding, watering.... Often the garden is a place of failure and bad harvests. And still it is a wonderful feeling after all the work to harvest and to eat the produce we have grown. Eating becomes a wholly different experience as we await with anticipation the many varieties of tomatoes!
Another form of our self production comes thankfully from our “new volunteers,” the 20 hens who arrived this year. Since the end of February their eggs have been a treasure for us.
We are very careful about our menu. Of course besides vegetables and fruit we need other food. The major part comes from our region, which is not good only for the environment but also for the butcher and baker in our neighboring town.
Or course energy use is also a very important consideration in a guest facility. In winter we experience just how much work it is to heat a home with wood. For weeks we are busy felling trees, splitting and piling the wood. We have learned to make a fire and the importance of putting on one or two more layers of clothing.
Just how dependent we are on electricity was evident to us when a huge storm hit our area of Tuscany. Many trees were uprooted and roofs opened. A huge tree fell on our power line and for two days we were without electricity. Also the water was stopped, and that with 30 guests in the villa! Bringing up pails of water from storage in the cantina and dinner by candlelight with a minimum of dishes were quite some experiences.
To tell the truth, others in the area were worse off. So for days we were helping local friends, like the family on whose home a tree fell. This effort showed us how important community is. Everyone chipped in, the only way to solve the problem.
The way the guesthouse is set up facilitates contact with others. In the large eating room the staff eats with the guests. Especially when we all wash up after meals and set for the next meal is there a feeling of family. Casa Cares tries to be a place where everyone can feel at home, regardless of age and needs.
For example, last year Giulietta, a friend in her nineties, was here for several weeks and obviously felt at home. There was always someone ready to listen, even when we understood very little because of language differences. She also pitched in and felt needed.
We hosted as well for seven months three migrants from Bangladesh, Togo and Senegal. It was an enriching experience for us and brought us closer to their cultures.
Important certainly for us volunteers from various countries was our shared time. We worked and lived together. One learns to be concerned about the others and to build a positive atmosphere.