Sharing Italy: Small groups, small towns

As a twenty-something, I studied and worked in two small Umbrian towns, Perugia and Assisi. It was my first experience away from my childhood home.

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Enamored with life abroad, I next moved to Switzerland as an inexperienced skier ready to take on the Little Matterhorn — when not working at a spa. Later, I studied at a West African college and shared my guesthouse with an unwelcome guest, an overgrown rat. On a side trip in Zimbabwe, I came face to face with a two-ton elephant while biking on a dirt path. Back then, the best transportation was a crowded, rickety African bus, shared with riders' chickens and goats.

Such youthful experiences make for great stories. Would I take any of it back? Never. Would I do it again today? In fact, yes:  At least to that one cultured, historic and varied place that calls me back, again and again: Italy.

Today I visit Italy on my own and with groups, reconnecting with friends and making new acquaintances with each journey. These days, mostly I create adventures for others — though if you travel with me now, you won’t have to share a dusty bus seat with a crate of chickens.

Instead, I’ve returned to the first and best places I visited during those globetrotting days, the small towns of Italy where hulking tourist buses are not always blocking the main path to the piazza.

At Viaggi di Gusto, we mainly organize extended trips for small groups interested in unique Italian culinary and wine experiences. These custom travel experiences combine the backpackers’ thrill of discovery with the ease and comfort of an organized tour.

Having lived it myself has been a big advantage when planning and negotiating every detail of a trip to deliver the best experience possible. With well-established contacts, we explore the most beautiful areas of Italy at a price below many tours that include fewer amenities and stick to the well-worn tourist track.

We experience sights, sounds, smells and tastes of Italy in breadth and depth beyond what you’ll find on rushed, prepackaged large-group tours. And my long experience in Italy comes in handy when driving a hard bargain for a good hotel room, or haggling for a client over a handsome leather bag or a pair of stylish Italian boots.

We allow plenty of options for independent-minded travelers. But small-group travel also creates opportunities to make new friends and share experiences, and we’ll handle all the details needed to organize a smooth trip.

Finally, we offer an ironclad guarantee: You’ll never be cornered by an elephant on the path to the vineyard.

Consider joining on us on of our Italian adventures.