Happy to pay for the privilege of picking olives? Then Sting might have a job for you...

For only £208, you can toil away on the singer's Tuscan estate

Share

You know those fields you drive past in summer, awash with plastic greenhouse sheeting, where you see a sign that reads “Pick Your Own” and you wonder if it might be worth stopping the car, walking through the rows of strawberries with a pair of scissors, snipping the biggest, reddest and juiciest you can find, then taking them home and amazing your friends with your self-harvested trove of nature’s scarlet summer bounty?

Then you think: Hang on – why should I be arsed to spend hours picking someone else’s strawberries, even gratis, if it means putting my back out, getting pricked and sweaty and covered with red gunge, when I could spend four quid in Waitrose for the same result?

It is, as the children say, a no-brainer. So would you be interested in an offer that’s now available in Italy, where you rise early, head for a massive wine-and-olive-growing estate, spend a harvest day collecting grapes and olives in a big, peasant-grade basket, then hand it over to the estate’s multi-millionaire owner – and pay him for letting you work there?

The chap in question is Sting, formerly with The Police, composer of such hits as “So Lonely,” “Can’t Stand Losing You” and “Every Little Thing He Does Is Moneyspinning.” He and his wife, Trudi Styler, own a 16th-century, 900-acre estate called Il Palagio in Tuscany, where they produce honey, oil and biodynamic wine. They’re asking for well-off tourist-visitors to “roll up your sleeves” and help with the local harvest, while paying €262 (£208) for the privilege.

The sales pitch is ingenious. Prospective visitor-workers are promised, along with “succulent grapes and luscious wines”, that they will share “the adventure and excitement of being part of the annual vendemmia, the traditional, October grape and November olive harvests respected by generations of Tuscan farmers”.

Myself, I always thought grapes and olives were harvested in the autumn months, not because it was a local “tradition” like a church festival, but because it’s when grapes and olives are, you know, fully ripened.

But the key word here is “respected.” Saying the harvest has been “respected” by farmers for generations means it’s been “worked at” for generations by farmers using unskilled seasonal labourers who are paid a pittance.

 

What the word sneakily coveys, however, is that, when Dan and Marjorie from Buckhurst Hill join the perspiring yokels in the hot sun, snipping grapes (and possibly humming “Don’t Stand So Close to Me” as Claudio and Felipe crowd in just behind them) they can bask in the illusion that they’re being “respected” as down-to-earth equals by the horny-handed toilers in the Tuscan grove, rather than being considered gullible twats taken in by the crafty, opportunistic Signore Sting.

It’s a potent myth that you can hitch a ride on authenticity, and become one of Millet’s Gleaners by working in a field, with the twinkle of honest sweat on your brow and the fine ache of honest labour in your bones. I tried it once, in my teens on a Tuscan farm, hoeing with a zappa in the middle of a dozen piss-taking Sardinians, and let me tell you, it wasn’t a transcendent experience, it was back-breaking, it induced a raging thirst, and it seemed to go on for ever.

There are suckers born every moment, though. So I wonder if I could pull off the same trick. There’s a tree in my garden that needs to have its skinny branches trimmed off. Shall I put an advert in the Classifieds? “Come and help de-branch my tree. Just roll up your sleeves and join in an ancient practice honoured and respected by millions of earthy visionaries. Andrew Marvell, Virginia Woolf and Seamus Heaney all liked trees. Jesus Christ has a special relationship with one. Shakespeare’s Macbeth was attacked by a whole forest of the things. You too could be part of the ancient dendrophile community, feeling the excitement of pruning and pollarding in the timeless landscape of West London). Only £250.”

READ MORE:
Do you realise just how foolish the UK looks?
Boris Johnson's proposal for British fighters in Syria and Iraq is dangerous and counterproductive

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - Surrey - £40,000

£30000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - Guildford/Craw...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Assistant

£13500 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Customer Service Assistant is...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £35,000

£16000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An ambitious and motivated Sale...

Recruitment Genius: Gas Installation Support Engineer

£20000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Gas Installation Support Engi...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

General Election 2015: Ed Miliband hasn’t ‘suddenly’ become a robust leader. He always was

Steve Richards
 

Costa Rica’s wildlife makes me mourn our paradise lost

Michael McCarthy
Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence