Small group tours for food & wine lovers who want to escape the crowds
Uncover the hidden delights of Italy with us
4 - 6 people per trip • Off-the-beaten-Path • Authentic & Immersive
With our cultural vacations you don't just visit Italy, you live Italy. While others come to Italy just to see the sights with a crowd of tourists, you get to experience a quieter, more authentic Italian experience that most people completely miss out on.
Each cultural vacation package is based in one specific region, and is hosted at hand-picked accommodations that offer a blend of local hospitality, comfort and character. Enjoy hands-on cooking classes, delicious regional food and wines, visits to local producers, excursions to famous sites with incredible history, hidden treasures, walks in stunning natural beauty, unique local cultural experiences, and so much more.
And we'll let you in on a little secret....in order to notice these details, you have to slow things down a bit so that you have the opportunity to notice and savor your time in incomparable Italy. You’ll be experiencing your chosen region in Northern Italy as an insider from the first moment you arrive. You will truly feel like you're with family.
We’ve already planned the perfect trip you’re looking for and you can book it today! Eat with locals, learn their traditions, be welcomed by our friends and artisans, all with time to wander on your own and zero logistics to think about.
Italy's Secret Treasure: Friuli Venezia Giulia
Are you looking for a holiday in beautiful Italy off the main tourist trail? You found it!
Your first question is undoubtedly "Where on earth is Friuli Venezia Giulia?" It may be hard to believe, but there are still fantastic places in Italy that are not overrun with travelers. Relatively unknown outside Europe, Friuli Venezia Giulia is a wonderful place with incredible food and wines. The New York Times called it "Italy’s secret garden".
PRICING: 8days/7nights from $3,500USD per person (double occupancy)
NEXT CHANCE TO GO: Sept. 12 to 19, 2022
Flavors and Vistas of Piedmont
Are you looking to discover the hidden culinary and wine delights Italy offers? If you are, then this is the tour for you! Discover one of Italy's magical wine regions, Piedmont. Although more and more people are hearing about Piedmont and coming to visit, the region remains quite undiscovered. In Piemonte, the rhythms of Italian life, uninterrupted by tourists, can be found everywhere: from the corner bar where the same folks grab their thrice-daily café to the local sacre and festivals that almost always revolve around food and wine.
PRICING: 8days/7nights from $3,500USD per person (double occupancy)
NEXT CHANCE TO GO: Oct. 19 to 26, 2022
My Vision for Your Cultural Vacation
It is my mission to completely change the way you prefer to travel. I strive to assure that each of our cultural immersion tour packages offers experiences a traveler could never have achieved on their own, or with a traditional tour company. I introduce you to our local friends and family, take you to places most visitors overlook, take you shopping to local markets, and bring you to eat in amazing local restaurants. As you step away from preconceived notions and immerse yourself in a local culture, you will find experiences that change lives and inspire the soul.
If you're the type of traveler who enjoys jet-setting from location to location in a flurry, do not enjoy wine or are not a foodie, then this way of travel is probably not a good fit for you. On the other hand, if leisurely dinners, unhurried exploration and getting to know a place as an insider intrigues you, then we are the right choice for you.
Together, we will cook traditional family recipes while taking slow sips of wine. We will spend hours exploring the beautiful hamlets and countryside. And when the time finally comes to say goodbye, you leave with a true sense of belonging, new friends, appreciation for another culture and unforgettable memories.
Guests regularly tell us that they had no idea how good the food could be, or what amazing things cannot be found in guidebooks, how incredibly warm and welcoming the people are when you get away from the touristy areas, or what an amazing feeling it was to immerse themselves in the culture rather than only skim the surface.
Be part of the culture and travel in a more authentic, relaxed way.
How We Offer This Experience To You
We are hosts, not guides.
You will never hear us use the words 'client' or 'customer'. You are our 'guest'. We are not your 'guides'; we are your 'hosts'. These are not just words. They are an attitude. We want to get to know you, and we are passionate about sharing the things we love about places we call home. We want to protect you from getting ripped off at tourist traps. We want to introduce you to our personal favorite places to eat, not the places set up for mass tourism. We want to show you some of our favorite little-known sites, and we want to show you a good time. We keep it very casual, and very fun.
We keep it small and intimate.
Big groups are impersonal. Unlike the big tour bus companies, our cultural immersion tours are 4 to 6 people. We keep it nice and small so that we can keep it personal. Like-minded people with a sense of fun and adventure, not to mention a love of good food and wine, become your friends. We travel like locals and enjoy spontaneous adventures as we explore the path less traveled. Guests enjoy visits to small family-run producers, dining with the locals at their favorite trattoria, or savoring a multi-course tasting dinner at an exclusive ten-table ristorante.
We embrace the local culture.
Italians don't eat butter with their bread and don't drink American coffee. Italians have pastry and cappuccino for breakfast, not bacon and eggs. They never drink a cappuccino with dinner, never have olive oil and vinegar dipping sauces for bread. Italians don't have dinner before 8:00PM, and they never take their coffee to go. Most tours and tourism establishments cater to North American culture. It is easier for them to simply do it the North-American way than it is to explain the differences. We believe this robs you of a big part of the experience. As they say, "when in Rome, do as the Romans do". When you travel with us, we share with you how to adapt to the local culture, rather than asking the local culture to adapt to you. You will experience the real life of the culture you are visiting, and it is absolutely wonderful!
We keep it personal.
We will not call you “Mr. and Mrs.” We will call you “John and Jane,” as though we have known you for years. We will laugh and have fun together. Yes, we are technically guides and escorts, but we are your hosts, and we will treat you as if you are visiting friends and not just customers. We love sharing these wonderful place with others. You will go home having had the most amazing vacation of your life, having made amazing new friends, having experienced incredible Italian home cooking, having seen remarkable things few tourists have seen, and having felt an uncanny sense belonging in a place so far away. Long before you get home, you will have started planning your return. This results in an incredibly comfortable feeling for everyone, and we end up staying in contact with many of our guests long after they have left.
We go on orientation walks.
All of our cultural immersion tour packages incorporate a mixture of cultural experiences, culinary delights and excursions. On our private guided tours, when you go visit a site in a city like Venice or Turin, you have a local expert guide who shares with you the history and interesting facts of the place you are visiting. We do offer this option when visiting the major cities, but in all other locations you will visit, we offer what we call “orientation walks.” We will certainly tell you about the places you are visiting, and show you what there is to see, but is done at a relaxed pace, with the freedom to explore shops and areas that you’re interested in, rather than following a specified course. Our goal with every visit is for you to have a wonderful and relaxing time, taking in the wonderful atmosphere of the place—stopping and smelling the roses.
We get off the beaten path.
While the big bus tours are stopping at that glorified gift shop with 100% markups for tourists, we choose to take you to a little artisan shop where the locals go, just a mile down the road. While rows of tour buses are lining up at that multi-national winery's faux castle in southern Tuscany that mass-produces low-grade wine destined for Wal Mart, we are a few miles down the road at a small family winery drinking their amazing wines and strolling around their cellar and vineyards. While the other tours are eating at tourist traps, we are eating at a little trattoria down the street that the locals frequent because they make the best pasta in town.
You unpack only once.
No early wake-up calls and changing hotels every other day. De-stress and relax, knowing you have the luxury of unpacking once and slowing down. Staying in the same place, you will come to understand the rhythms of local life and soon feel like a local.
Become our lifelong friends.
We’re not just locals and Italy experts; we’re travelers of Italy, too! You’re our honorary guest. And we’re your fun and fabulous Italian friends. We get you, we know what you want to see and experience, and we know the best ways to make that happen! From the moment we welcome you on tour, to our final goodbyes, we’ll be there every step of the way. Get access to our insider knowledge, multi-lingual abilities, and personal relationships that allow you to experience Italy like it is your home.
Want more details? Click below to schedule a call with Audrey!
What you can expect
"It is not down in any map; true places never are" - Herman Melville
It starts with place. We selected our base locations for their beauty, authenticity and local feel. If the big tour companies are there, we usually are not.
As you look at our chosen locations, chances are that you have never heard of them. The places you have heard about are places millions of others want to visit, so they have usually been spoiled by the ravages of mass tourism. But those same places were once largely undiscovered and truly amazing. We focus on locations that are still largely undiscovered, and have yet to be spoiled.
We don't want you packing and unpacking all the time. So you stay in one place instead of going from hotel to hotel. This also means that you are staying local to give you a real sense of the place you are visiting. Therefore, we have chosen locations that allow us to build itineraries that balance local living experiences with fantastic sightseeing excursions.
There is nothing quite like small town hospitality when you get away from the areas burdened with mass tourism. The people are warm and welcoming. That sense of Italian hospitality is our number one priority with every guest.
The concept of Italy as a single country belies the reality—Italy consists of many regions, with incredibly diverse cultures, histories, natural topographies, and cuisines. An authentic Italian adventure requires regional expertise and relationships. We have made a conscious decision to focus our cultural vacations in specific regions in Northern Italy. This means that we offer fewer tour locations but still provide you a high level of regional focus and knowledge. If you have a question, we can answer it—or we know who can!
"Experience, travel - these are as education in themselves" - Euripides
People often talk about what they “saw” on their vacations. Our guests talk about what they “experienced”. One of our main goals is to bring our guests into the local lifestyle as much as possible in each location. We believe in doing, rather than just seeing. So, during the wine harvest, while others are wine tasting, you are harvesting grapes and making wine. During the olive harvest, while others are buying new oil, you are making extra virgin olive oil from olives we picked together. During truffle season, you go on a truffle hunt. You participate in local festivals as locals and we introduce you to local friends who share their life experiences and knowledge with you.
“If you reject the food, ignore the customs, fear the religion and avoid the people, you might better stay at home” – James Michener
In order to keep the masses happy, the mainstream tourism industry caters to the tastes and habits of North American clientele. In doing so, however, they are taking away from the experience of learning about a new culture. For example, if you visit Rome, the hotels all serve bacon and egg breakfasts with American-style coffee. But if you venture to an area without heavy tourism, you can partake of a just-baked pastry and cappuccino for breakfast while standing at the counter of a small café. Rather than another forgettable breakfast, you can take in the sounds and aromas of that Italian café and learn why Italian cappuccino is world-famous. That authentic breakfast experience becomes memorable and educational rather than just a meal. When you experience true Italian culture, you will discover amazing things you never imagined and you will go home with a deeper appreciation for the place you have just visited. Many of our guests end up discovering new favorite recipes, products or customs, which they can take home with them to enjoy for years to come.
We not only introduce you to the local culture, but also the local customs, and we ask you to embrace them as much as possible. While the other tourists are having a cappuccino after dinner, we will advise against it because that is a cultural faux pas. Instead, we guide you to order an espresso or an after-dinner drink like Grappa or Limoncello. We'll even help you learn some of the language! It may not seem like much, but these little things add up to a significantly different travel experience that never fails to give you valuable insight into the place you are visiting.
“Food is everything we are. It’s an extension of nationalist feeling, ethnic feeling, your personal history, your province, your region, your tribe, your grandma. It’s inseparable from those from the get-go” – Anthony Bourdain
Food is an all-important part of each and every one of our cultural vacations. We are foodies who love to savor the authentic flavors of each destination. Through food, we can learn about a region’s history, traditions and societal norms. Recipes and cooking techniques are passed down from generation to generation. Some dishes tell a story of an entire nation, whilst others may be specific to a small group. In exploring the local food you learn about the country you are visiting at a deeper level than simply visiting its sights.
It is important to note that the focus of the cooking classes and dining experiences is mostly on home cooking. While in some cases you dine in Michelin Star restaurants, we tend to favor farm-to-table local eateries and focus on family-run, local trattorias and osterias. When you eat out, you will always do it like locals, with locals.
“Compromises are for relationships, not wine.” – Sir Robert Scott Caywood
Each of our cultural vacations includes wines with your meals. You most likely will have wines that you have never heard of before as we always seek out regional wines, usually produced by small, family-run winemakers. Many guests marvel when they don't get wine headaches from the red wine because it is natural and not full of fillers meant to help the wine keep for months during shipping and extreme weather conditions.
For those of you that are not big wine enthusiasts, not to worry! We tailor your vacation experience to you, not to the masses, so we can make changes to the excursions based on your preferences.
What Audrey's clients are saying...
Sign up for our Newsletter
Sign up for my monthly newsletter showcasing featured tours, new itineraries, expert travel advice and inspiration. You will receive my insider tips for bringing your wine home.