The Art of Travel

by Sunni Chapman



Today marks the fifteenth day that I’ve been in Italy. I’ve drunk in the sights (and a cup or two of Chianti). I’ve wandered medieval stone streets. And, of course, I’ve eaten my share of tortellini, prosciutto and tiramisù.

But, ya know what? Before I worked in travel, I was an annoyingly know-it-all traveler. I’d research for months the destinations I was visiting – hoping to uncover the places that locals loved. I’ll be honest with you, back then I didn’t see the value of hiring a guide or working with a destination specialist. I was convinced I could do it all on my own -- without the help of a trained professional or on-site expert.

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Now, of course, I know better. I know that guides aren’t there to exploit us. The good ones – the ones that See Italy partners with – chose this profession to share love for their homeland. They’re passionate. And, they help travelers discover the people and places most tourists never get to see.

  • It’s the guide in Rome who, while describing the historic sights, points out the family trattoria that foreigners always overlook.
  • It’s the guide in Florence who brings you behind the scenes at a mosaic shop – introducing you to the owner who she’s known for years.
  • It’s the guide in Venice who takes you on a tasting tour of the wine bars frequented only by Venetians.

At their best, guides don’t just teach you about the history of X, Y and Z destinations. No, they open up a universe – unearthing local haunts, hidden gems, and personal connections. Just yesterday, I went on a private walking tour of Florence with our Tuscan guide. We visited a paper shop; there we observed how marbled paper is made by hand. The shop owner is a close friend of our guide.

Because of this personal relationship, he took time out of his day to share the techniques behind Florence’s paper-making traditions. We watched in awe as he dripped and swirled paint into fantastical shapes. He then lay the paper atop the paint and – with expert finesse – morphed a plain sheet into a rainbow of hues. Without See Italy’s on-site connections, this experience would never have happened.

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I now see the difference – how on-site experts can welcome you inside a foreign world. When you travel with people passionate about sharing their country, you’re not paying for a blah-blah-blah tour. Instead, you’re given access to experiences you never knew existed. You’re welcomed in. You unearth the Italy that only Italians know.

Over the next few months, I’ll share more of my travels through Italy with you all. So, keep your eyes peeled in our social media posts and weekly newsletters for more extraordinary experiences – like, truffle-hunting in the woods or tasting parmigiano at a family-run farm. Many Italies await when you travel with the experts. I promise your clients will see the difference.

Ciao, ciao!

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Christopher Atwood

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