Photo by Doug Khrenovsky
Q: How and when did your passion for travel to Italy convert to a full-time business?
A: My tour business was born quite by accident. Clients from another business I own asked me to take them to Italy in 2001. At first I thought that they were joking, but they were not. So, I told them that I was certainly up for the challenge since, by that time, I was spending about two months per year in Italy. I knew how to get around, where to eat like the Italians, and what to see and do. The first trip was a hit, and before I knew it, the group started referring travelers to me.
Q: Do you only provide group tours or can clients contact you for a la carte services?
A: We conduct about six group tours per year, and actually most of what we do are custom-designed itineraries for groups, individuals, and families.
Q: What makes Italian Tours by Diana different from other travel agencies?
A: We are different from other agencies in that we specialize in a few select places. We do not really consider ourselves a travel agency since most agencies are generalists. We have a specific expertise, and that is what makes us different. When our travelers arrive in Italy, for example, they are received like family since our relationships with our providers are long standing. Our travelers benefit from the key relationships that I have personally built over the years. This is very valuable.
Q: Which areas of Italy do you cover and what are the most frequent months to travel?
A: My journeys touch on most areas of Italy. Of course we include the highlights of Italy, such as Venice, Florence, and Roma, but we really love to expose our travelers to the off-the-beaten-track places that they would never find on their own. This is where our travelers can catch a glimpse of the genuine side of Italy.
Q: Why do you think Americans love Italy?
A: Italy, the country, is divided into 20 regions. Within the regions you will find a number of cities, towns, and villages. When traveling from place to place, travelers realize the vast amount of variety that Italy offers. Regions and cities have their own identities. You can travel 50 miles and find that the architecture is different, as well as the dialect, the food, the scenery, and the people. For example, Rome is different from Florence, Florence is different from Venice, Venice is different from the lake region and so on. I have always said that Italy is like a mosaic. It is a finely woven tapestry of contrast. As a result, it offers something unique for everyone.
Q: What is a common mistake a first-time visitor makes?
A: Not planning their journey in advance. Italy is very sought after. Countless numbers of tourists ascend upon this country every year. By not planning a journey in advance, the traveler runs the risk of overpaying for lodging and other pertinent services since they will not have had the luxury of comparing and gaining knowledge beforehand. As well, they will not have as many choices regarding the quality of their time spent overseas.
Q: What advice can you give to someone who has been to Italy several times already? Are there hidden gems that even frequent travelers haven’t discovered?
A: I recommend visiting the off-the-beaten-track places. For example, the island of Sicily has wonderful world heritage sites, amazing food, and traditional Sicilian hospitality. The pastries in Sicily are a specialty and need to be experienced. As well, a newfound favorite of mine is the region of Basilicata and the ancient city of Matera. This is in the deep south of Italy. This area is not overwhelmed by tourism. The rich 5,000-year-old history of Matera is fascinating. It is a raw area known for “I Sassi” or the rocks. Matera silently speaks to each visitor in a unique way. I recommend visiting in late September or October as the weather is ideal at that time.
Q: With its many museums, wineries, and high-end dining, Italy can seem like a very adult destination. Can Italy be toured with kids?
A: Children visiting Italy are always welcomed with open arms. They are made to feel important and loved. The children never lack for food choices, as pasta, pizza, and gelato are staples. Keeping museum visits brief and allowing for fun time to visit the coastline or go hiking are great ideas.
Q: What other services can you provide clients in the Cleveland area?
A: Our travel service is in depth, and we pride ourselves in offering complete support of our travelers. As a result we offer translation services, genealogy research, custom honeymoons, anniversary trips, and cruises.
For more information: italiantoursbydiana.com