Live like a local in Italy
A friends and family vacation experience
With our cultural and culinary vacations you don't visit Italy, you LIVE Italy. Our cultural vacations packages in Northern Italy offer you the magical experience of Italian culture, like no other vacation can. 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 we offer is based in one specific region, and is hosted for the duration of your visit at hand-picked accommodations that offer a blend 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 Northern Italy as an insider from the first moment you arrive. You will truly feel like family with us.
Our vision for our regional Cultural & Culinary Vacations
We believe that the most enriching form of travel is to step out of your comfort zone, away from preconceived notions and immerse yourself in a local culture. These experiences change lives and inspire the soul. 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.
It is our mission to completely change the way you prefer to travel. We strive to assure that each of our cultural vacation packages offers experiences a traveler could never have achieved on their own, or with a traditional tour company. We 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.
If you're the type of traveler who enjoys jet-setting from location to location in a flurry, then our cultural & culinary vacations are probably not a good fit. 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 and your group.
You will feel like family with us. Together, we will cook traditional family recipes while taking slow sips of wine. On excursions, we are a group of friends exploring the beautiful hamlets and countryside together. We engage you in the culture of the region we are hosting you in. We help you fully embrace all that makes the culture special. We strive to make every moment a memorable one.
Our 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.
And if one week is not enough, we can recommend other areas to explore based on your particular interests.
Uncover the real Italy....
Italy's Secret Treasure: Friuli Venezia Giulia
Are you looking for an alternative holiday in beautiful Italy and are you willing to deviate from the beaten paths by choosing a lesser known Italian region? You found it! This region has plenty to offer Italy fans that have seen many the country’s most famous sights and are seeking somewhere wonderful off the main tourist trail.
PRICING: 8days/7nights from $3,500USD per person (double occupancy)
The Flavors and Vistas of Piedmont
Although more and more people are hearing about Piemonte and coming to visit, the region remains quite undiscovered; any place in Italy that isn’t Rome, Venice, or Florence is still off the beaten path. Yes, “authentic” is a loaded word, but in Piemonte, the rhythms of Italian life, uninterrupted by tourists, can be found everywhere.
PRICING: 8days/7nights from $3,500USD per person (double occupancy)
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 vacations average 4 to 8 people. We keep it nice and small so that we can keep it personal. 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 vacation 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.
It is hard to ignore that tourism is a major industry. There are many places that are regular stops for tours, and they lack personality. So, 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 restaurants that survive only on tourism because the food is considered inedible by local standards, we are eating at a little trattoria down the street that the locals frequent because they make the best pasta in town.
Why vacation like this? 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.
Who belongs to our family of guests?
If you have read this far, you may be wondering if you will fit in with this "family" of our guests. Consider this: What is your idea of a perfect vacation? Do you see yourself in a high-rise hotel with 24-hour room service? Do you want a week on the beach with a drink and a book, or a resort with drinks at the pool? This is, quite simply, not us. The people you will meet on a Travels with Audrey cultural vacation enjoy boutique hotels with staff who know their names, discovering regional cuisine and wines, venturing on the road less traveled. If that appeals to you, you'll fit right in!
You will fall in love with our Cultural & Culinary Vacation packages
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 locations, chances are that you have never heard of it. 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. In some cases, you may find us based in a popular location, but you will find that we quickly get you off the beaten path.
We don't want you packing and unpacking all the time. So we stay in one place. After our excursions we always come "home" at the end of the day instead of going from hotel to hotel. This also means that we stay fairly 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 & Culinary Vacations in specific regions in Northern Italy. This means that we offer fewer tour locations but can provide 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 get 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, we are harvesting grapes and making wine. During the olive harvest, while others are buying new oil, we are making extra virgin olive oil from olives we picked together. During truffle season, we go on a truffle hunt. We participate in local festivals as locals. 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 will 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 will 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 so that you are more welcomed. 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 journeys. 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 we learn about the country we are visiting at a deeper level than simply visiting its sights.
It is important to note that we focus our cooking classes and dining experiences mostly on home cooking. While in some cases we dine in Michelin Star restaurants, we tend to favor and focus on family-run, local trattorias and osterias. When we eat out, we always do it like locals, with locals. We never select a tourist restaurant offering us a great deal. We always favor farm-to-table local eateries.
“Compromises are for relationships, not wine.” – Sir Robert Scott Caywood
Each of our vacations includes wines with your meals. You most likely will have wines that you have never heard of before. This is because wherever we go, we 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 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...
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