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Francesca Tortorelli and Eliza Cox, known as ‘Growing Greener,’ embarked on a year of travelling and volunteering in Europe in 2022 to refine their dream of opening an eco-lodge in southern Italy. They used a website called Worldpackers to find opportunities to stay and eat in exchange for work, gathering valuable skills for their future project. They stayed at an off-grid eco-retreat farm in Portugal and an organic farm in France, experiencing life close to nature and learning about sustainability and agriculture.

After their year of travelling and volunteering, Francesca and Eliza are now living in a small town in south-west Italy, working towards their goal of opening an eco-lodge that promotes community and sustainability. They are connecting with the local community to ensure their future destination is inclusive and authentic. They envision the eco-lodge as a place for travellers who are mindful of their impact on the world and where they live. The couple is planning to host courses and workshops on topics like permaculture, yoga, pasta-making, and local traditions for both visitors and locals with limited resources.

Francesca and Eliza are working towards creating a place for travellers to come and learn while also integrating with the local community. They want to showcase the beauty of the area without negatively impacting the locals who live there year-round. Growing Greener’s Instagram account, with over 21,000 followers, documents their efforts to engage with their neighbors in Perdifumo and organize community events like beach clean-ups. They plan to host their first events in Cilento from May 2024 and are still in search of the perfect location for their eco-lodge, as well as seeking state grants to kickstart the project.

Their experiences on eco-retreats in Portugal and France taught Francesca and Eliza valuable lessons about community, sustainability, and living simply. They found that by immersing themselves in nature and working on various tasks, they grew personally and gained new skills. Despite the challenges of life on the road, the couple considers their year of travelling and volunteering one of the best of their lives. Francesca reflects on how the experience taught her to listen to herself and pursue what she truly wants to do.

Francesca and Eliza’s journey towards creating an eco-lodge built around nature, sharing, and community began in 2020 when they met in Naples and bonded over their discontent with city life. They spent six months preparing and researching the best way to travel affordably while volunteering in Europe. Through their experiences volunteering on eco-retreats, they learned valuable skills and gained insight into how they could make their dream of an eco-lodge in southern Italy a reality. The couple’s determination and passion for sustainability and community are evident in their efforts to create a unique and inclusive destination that benefits both travellers and the local community.

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