Mamma mia! 280,000. That’s the jaw-dropping number of applicants that responded to a worldwide initiative organized by Airbnb in search of volunteers that would be willing to populate the small Italian town of Grottole during three months, with the commitment of helping the town revive and flourish with each person’s particular set of skills.
Nestled along a hill in the southern province of Matera, Grottole has only 300 inhabitants in its historic center and 600 uninhabited homes, meaning it is in desperate need of help. So Airbnb, in collaboration with NGO Wonder Grottole launched the program The Italian Sabbatical, which quickly went viral to the tune of the aforementioned more than quarter of a million people.
So why is this news to Argentina, exactly? I’m glad you asked. On the one hand, it’s important to point out that, of the 280,000 applications, 40,000 were from Argentines, positioning it in second place behind the United States (please insert random comment of your choice here about Argentines wanting to flee their home country to escape the crisis). Not only that, but of the five volunteers chosen, one is from Buenos Aires! His name is Pablo Colangelo and he’s a 35 year old software engineer that been an Airbnb host for a while now. Not only that, but Pablo’s got Italian roots – although that’s hardly a surprise in Argentina, to be honest.
Pablo will be joined in Grottole by photographer Anne Tachado (24) from the Philippines, language teacher Remo Sciubba (62) from Italy, ex-firefighter Darrel Pistone (61) from New York, and cultural tour guide Helena Warren (45) from Canada. Warren, surprisingly, also has ties to Argentina, introducing tourists to tango in Buenos Aires in recent years.
The Italian sabbatical experience offers local residents the unique opportunity to guide the volunteers through Italian traditions, culture, and gastronomy. The five participants will be completely immersed in the daily life of the community, starting their journey with a one-month training led by the residents themselves. Then, the volunteers will become co-hosts of Airbnb accommodations and experiences with the assistance of Wonder Grottole.
So, what were the reasons behind the massive number of applications received for this initiative exactly? Well 13 percent of the applicants claimed to have Italian roots and found the initiative to be an opportunity to reconnect with their family history. The main motivation of the applicants, however, was to avoid exhaustion (19 percent), others (16 percent) were motivated by the simple desire to revitalize the village or to rest in the countryside (8 percent).
The participants will be traveling to Grottole on June 5th, which means that Mr. Colangelo will be returning to Argentina just in time to vote for the next president of his home country. Our advice? Save some of that peace and quiet from Grottole, Pablito. You’re going to need it.