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


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.”

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

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

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Read Next

In Sickness and in Health: 'I'm really happy to be alive and to see Rebecca'

Rebecca Armstrong
Supporters in favour of same-sex marriage pose for a photograph as thousands gather in Dublin Castle  

The lessons we can learn from Ireland's gay marriage referendum

Stefano Hatfield
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?