WWOOFing at Castello di Potentino
Castello di Potentino is a gorgeous wine and olive oil estate situated in the hills of Tuscany, Italy, near the town of Seggiano. “The Castle” (yes, literally a restored castle) has become an established guest stay and venue for food, drink and yoga events.
In October 2016, I arrived at Castello di Potentino to volunteer (or “wwoof”) there for a month. WWOOF stands for Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms or Willing Workers on Organic Farms.
There are organic farms (and vineyards) all around the world that are part of the extensive WWOOF network.
Someone who is interested in volunteering would pay for a membership to their country of choice, giving them access to contact info for all the host farms in that country.
From there, you’d email the farm you want to volunteer at, and ask if they can accept you as a wwoofer during your specified dates.
Castello di Potentino was one of my top two choices, and I was ecstatic when I was given the green light to book my flight to Italy to volunteer there.
The Hosts at Castello di Potentino
Charlotte Horton and her brother Alexander Greene, who run the Castello di Potentino estate, are from the family of the late British author Graham Greene.
Sadly, during the time I was there to volunteer, Graham passed away and Charlotte and Alexander flew to London to arrange and attend the funeral.
Since they were gone for quite a period of time during my stay, I didn’t get to learn as much about the wine and olive oil making process from Charlotte as I would have liked to. That being said, there were still some opportunities for questions and discussion when they returned.
The grape varieties grown at Castello di Potentino are Sangiovese, Alicante and Pinot Noir. In an interview, Charlotte explains that these three were chosen “as they are very site sensitive. They cannot grow everywhere and they mirror the unique characteristics of our microclimate.”
From discussions with Charlotte at the Castle, it’s clear that she has a deep respect for the land they grow on, and a devotion to the wines that they make.
She also believes in the importance of giving young (and older!) people the opportunity to experience working on a vineyard, while getting to enjoy fine cuisine and good wine every day.
Charlotte expects respect for both the wine and work in return from the wwoofers that they host. So, if you’re going to wwoof at Castello di Potentino, make sure you’re up for some hard work (with great rewards)!
Another prominent presence at the Castle is Sally Greene, Charlotte and Alexander’s mother. Sally is bright-eyed with snow white hair, and while she is typically soft spoken, she can also whip out some fiery words like a firecracker.
Sally does have dementia and can forget certain things, but to me, it isn’t what defines her at all. As I told her on my last day at the Castle, she brought such a great presence and spirit to the wwoofers every day. She inspired us with her grace, words and knowing smile. She will never be forgotten.
Then, there are Otto and Minerva, the family’s Jack Russell and harlequin Great Dane, respectively, who often claim the Minerva-spotted couch as their throne. While Minerva may tower over Otto, it seems that Otto often gives Minerva a run for her money.
And, of course, a bevy of cats frequent the Castle walls and always seem to appreciate some company and treats!
Work Life at the Castle
Uran is Charlotte’s right-hand man, nicknamed by me as “Maestro Wwoofie” (he calls the wwoofers “wwoofies”). He is the person we reported to each work day to find out: Che cosa facciamo adesso? (What are we doing now?).
Uran hails from Albania, but has been living in Italy for over 20 years and working with Charlotte and Alexander for most of that time. His wife and kids also live with him on the property.
While Uran’s English is limited (he speaks Italian and understands some Spanish), he still managed to communicate instructions to us to get the work done. Usually, there were one or two wwoofers who either spoke some Italian or Spanish and could relay more complicated instructions to the rest of us.
Either way, everyone really enjoyed working with Uran and had a lot of respect for his work ethic and skills. You’d often find Uran smiling and joking around with us, but also demanding quality work. If you weren’t doing something right, trust me, he’d let you know.
At different times of the year, there are different types of work for wwoofers to do at Castello di Potentino. When I arrived on October 5th, grape harvesting was already well underway. Towards the end of the month, we started with the olive harvest.
While we spent most of our day either out in the field or in the cantina to press grapes, some of our work related to guests staying at the Castle.
Castello di Potentino held a number of events during my stay, and there were often groups of guests milling about the Castle walls, enjoying the food, wine, and breathtaking views.
My WWOOFing Experience
Castello di Potentino is definitely an enchanting place, and I couldn’t have picked a better spot to start my wwoofing adventures at.
The following posts are about my experience wwoofing at Castello di Potentino. Hopefully, these will give you a better sense of what volunteering at the Castle is all about:
WWOOF Work: Grape Harvest
WWOOF Work: Etruscan Winemaking
WWOOF Work: Olive Harvest
WWOOF Work: Guests and Events
Eating at Castello di Potentino
What to Expect WWOOFing at Castello di Potentino — Part 1
What to Expect WWOOFing at Castello di Potentino — Part 2
Castello di Potentino: My Goodbye Reflection
You can also learn more about Castello di Potentino at these links:
Castello di Potentino website
Winemaker stories: Charlotte Horton, Castello di Potentino (The Florentine)
The best holiday combination ever? Inside the world’s first certified wine and yoga retreat set in a stunning medieval Tuscan castle with famous chefs on hand to cook (Daily Mail UK)
Castello di Potentino, Revisited (One Tough Cookie)
Tuscany: Getting in the Tuscan Groove (NZ Herald)
Photo Credit: All photos with Charlotte and Alexander courtesy of Alexander Greene