Seasonal jobs (lavoro stagionale) are available throughout the year in Italy, the vast majority in the tourist industry. Many jobs last for the duration of the summer or winter tourist seasons, May to September and December to April respectively, although some are simply casual or temporary jobs for a number of weeks. Italian fluency is required for all but the most menial and worst paid jobs, and is equally or more important than experience and qualifications (although fluency in Italian alone won’t guarantee you a well paid job). Seasonal jobs include most trades in hotels and restaurants, couriers and travel company representatives, a variety of jobs in ski resorts, sports instructors, jobs in bars and clubs, fruit and grape picking, and various jobs in the construction industry.
If you aren’t an EU national, it’s essential to check whether you’re eligible to work in Italy before making plans and you may also be required to obtain a visa (see page 76). Check with an Italian embassy or consulate in your home country well in advance of your visit. Foreign students in Italy can obtain a temporary work permit (autorizzazione di lavoro provvisoria) for part-time work during the summer holiday period and school terms (see page 80). The main seasonal jobs available in Italy are mentioned below.
Holiday Company Representatives
The duties of holiday representatives include ferrying tourist groups back and forth from airports, organising excursions and social events, arranging ski passes and equipment rental, and generally playing the role of Jack of all trades. A job as a representative is tough and demanding, and requires resilience and resourcefulness to deal with the chaos associated with the package holiday business. The necessary requirements include the ability to answer many questions simultaneously (often in different languages), to remain calm and charming under extreme pressure, and above all, to maintain a keen sense of humour. Lost passengers, tickets, passports and tempers are everyday occurrences. It’s an excellent training ground for managerial and leadership skills, pays well and often offers opportunities to supplement your earnings with tips.
Representatives are required by many local and foreign tour companies in both winter and summer resorts. Competition for jobs is fierce and local language ability is usually required, even for employment with British tour operators. Most companies have age requirements, the minimum usually being 21, although many companies prefer employees to be a few years older.
The majority of representative jobs in Italy are available during the winter ski season with British ski-tour companies and school ski-party organisers. A useful source of information is ski magazines, which contain regular listings of tour companies showing who goes to which resorts. It’s wise to find out the kind of clients you’re likely to be dealing with, particularly if you’re allergic to children or yuppies (young urban professionals, similar to children but more immature). In order to survive a winter in a ski resort, it helps to be a keen skier or a dedicated learner, otherwise you risk being bored to death by ski bums.
Some companies operate both summer and winter hotels and camps throughout Italy. Employees are required to speak good Italian. Representatives are also required for summer camps, which are organised for both adults and children. Among the main employers are Alpitour Italia, Viale Maino, 42, 20129 Milan (www.alpitour.it ), Club Med. (www.clubmedjobs.com ), Francorosso International (www.francorosso.it ) and Valtur (www.valtur.it ).
Hotels & Catering
Hotels and restaurants are the largest employers of seasonal workers, from hotel managers to kitchen hands, with jobs which are available all year round. Experience, qualifications and fluent Italian are required for all the best and highest paid positions, although a variety of jobs are available for the untrained and inexperienced. If accommodation with cooking facilities or full board isn’t provided with a job, it can be expensive and difficult to find. Ensure that your salary is sufficient to pay for accommodation, food and other living expenses, and to hopefully save some money. The best way to find work is to contact hotel chains directly (see Hotels on page 329), preferably at least six months before you wish to start work.
Grape & Fruit Picking
To find a fruit or vegetable picking job, visit the local information centre, which will provide you with a list of farms in the area taking on temporary workers for the harvest season. Local employment offices (uffici di collocamento) and agricultural co-operatives (Sezione Circoscrizionale per l’Impiego Collocamento in Agricola/SCICA) may also be helpful, although it’s generally best to contact farms directly. You may not be provided with accommodation and students normally camp while working. Pay is usually on a piece work (lavoro a cottimo) basis, where the more you pick, the more you earn.
One of the most popular summer jobs in Italy is grape picking. Goodness knows why, because it’s boring, badly paid and involves hard physical work, although a surprising number of young people find it appealing. Occupational hazards include mosquito and other insect bites, cuts from secateurs, rashes on your arms and legs from chemical sprays, and incessant back pain from bending all day long. Accommodation and cooking facilities can be extremely primitive, and the cost of food and accommodation is usually deducted from your pay. The main grape-picking areas are Emilia Romagna, Lazio, Marche, Piedmont, Puglia, Trentino, Tuscany and Veneto, where the harvest (vendemmia) is in September or October. The seasons and regions for some other crops are shown below:
- Apples and pears – Emilia Romagna, Trentino and Veneto from August to October;
- Cherries, peaches, plums and strawberries: Emilia Romagna and Piedmont from May to August;
- Flowers – Liguria and Tuscany year round;Olives – southern Italy, Marche, Sardinia, Sicily, Tuscany, Umbria, Veneto from November to January;
- Tobacco – Campania, Puglia and Umbria from November to December;
- Vegetables – Emilia Romagna and Veneto from spring to late autumn.
A seasonal job in an Italian ski resort can be a lot of fun and very satisfying. You will get fit, improve your Italian, make some friends, and may even save some money. Although a winter job may be a working holiday to you (with lots of skiing and little work), to your employer it means exactly the opposite! Ski resorts require an army of temporary workers to cater for the annual invasion of winter sports enthusiasts. As well as the jobs in the hotel and catering trades already mentioned above, a variety of other jobs are available, including resort representatives, chalet girls, ski technicians, ski instructors and guides. As a general rule, the better paid the job, the longer the working hours and the less time there is for skiing. Employment in a winter resort usually entitles employees to a discounted ski-pass.
An invaluable book for anyone looking for a job in a ski resort is Working in Ski Resorts – Europe, by Victoria Pybus & Charles James (Vacation Work).
Sports instructors are required for a variety of sports, including badminton, canoeing, diving, golf, gymnastics, hang-gliding, horse riding, mountaineering, parachuting, rock-climbing, sailing, squash, sub-aquatic sports, swimming, tennis and windsurfing. Whatever the sport, it’s probably played and taught somewhere in Italy. Most jobs for are available in the summer months. If you’re a qualified winter sports instructor, you should contact Italian ski resorts. Ski instructors and guides should also contact tour operators, large luxury hotels, and ski rental and service shops.
You should start applying for work from May onwards. Interviews usually take place from early September through to early November and successful candidates are on the job by mid-December. If you miss the May deadline, you should still apply, because many applicants who have been offered jobs drop out at the last minute.
There are many books for those seeking holiday jobs (see also page 28), including Summer Jobs Abroad by David Woodworth and Work Your Way Around the World by Susan Griffith (both published by Vacation Work). A Year Off, A Year On is published by CRAC Learning Materials, Hobson Publishing plc, Bateman Street, Cambridge CB2 1LZ, UK (www.hobsons.com ).
If you’re a sports or ski instructor, tour guide, holiday representative or are involved in any job that gives you responsibility for groups of people or children, you should be extremely wary of accepting an illegal job without a contract, as you won’t be insured for injuries to yourself, the public or accidents while travelling. Bear in mind that seasonal workers have few rights and little legal job protection in Italy, and can generally be fired without compensation at any time.
This excerpt has been republished with permission from Survival Books. Some of the information may apply to EU citizens only. If you would like to get the inside track on moving to Italy, pick up your copy of this great book by clicking here.