By: M a r t a T u c c i co-founder of Naya Traveler
This year, 2019 travel trends show that travellers are seeking transformational journeys, culturally immersive experiences and journeys that offer socially conscious travel. When it comes to transformational travel, personal fulfilment is a top priority for luxury globetrotters and they want to be the first to access what was previously out of reach. When introduced to Luxury Gold, a whole new world of possibilities emerge.
Personally curated by the Chairman of The Travel Corporation (TTC), Luxury Gold is a collection of travel experiences unlike any other. Exploring your passions through seemingly unattainable bucket list experiences is possible on a journey offering exclusive experiences and a rare opportunity to meet iconic local legends. The company has called upon their extensive connections to bring the exceptional closer to home, while offering unique access to special places and introducing travellers to characters you’d never think you’d have the chance to learn from someday. These outstanding experiences are available on select journeys with Luxury Gold and only a privileged few will explore an elite world with noble dinners, regal lunches and drinks with aristocracy. On the Ultimate Italy12-day journey, travellers can join Marchese (Count) Francesco Mazzei at his elegant Tuscan estate for an exclusive lunch and wine tasting, while learning the art of winemaking.
The journey started in the eternal city of Rome as I was welcomed to my five-star hotel, Palazzo Montemartini. I took some time to recharge and get ready for the evening before meeting our Travelling Concierge, the person responsible for all the journey’s details, and joined my fellow travellers on a short stroll to the Trevi Fountain. I enjoy the romance and air of one of my most favourite city’s before we all gather for a splendid welcome dinner at the local restaurant, new Piazza Navona.
In the early morning, we meet for an exclusive Luxury Gold VIP Experience, a private sightseeing tour of Vatican City. We enter just before 8:00 am, ahead of all the other groups and we are the first to experience the Sistine Chapel, the Vatican Museums and St. Peter’s Basilica. Later, we visit the Colosseum and the Roman Forum before taking a break to explore in the afternoon at our leisure. Debora, our EatWith host, awaited in the evening as she serves us a home-cooked Italian meal with the most incredible views over the city.
DAY 3 – 4
On day 3, we travel from Rome towards Pompeii in Luxury Gold’s air-conditioned, 40-seat coach with double the standard legroom (a real treat). Our Local Expert teaches us about the history of Pompeii and the people who once lived there before the violent eruption of Vesuvius. This is just one of many examples of how the company is bringing back the golden age of travel, making each journey an extraordinary one by sharing unparalleled wealth of expertise and insights that opened our minds as travellers. The journey continues on to Naples and we board our hydrofoil boat towards the famed Isle of Capri. The scent in Capri is laced with lemons and the breathtaking views of the original Italian island retreat combined with the sun kissing your cheeks reminds you you’re on vacation. Dinner is served at Ristorante L’Olivo, the only restaurant on the island boasting two Michelin stars and I indulged in Chef Andrea Migliacci’s culinary masterpieces. The next day, a dazzling cruise takes guests to see the white grotto and magnificent cliffs. We fully experience the sparkling jewel of the Mediterranean before arriving in Capri town. The gardens of Caesar Augustus are explored with our local expert over and ideal passeggiata as we check out the extraordinary views over the Faragolini Rocks.
In the morning, we take a ferry to Naples and travel along the Highway of the Sun to Assisi to visit the impressive Basilica of St. Fracis. Onward to Perugia, said to be one of Italy’s most vibrant but underrated destinations. We descend down through the maze of medieval streets, we make our way to our deluxe hotel, Brufani. Guests are guided through the city for a walk with our local expert, along Corso Vannucci to the main square where we stop to see the Great Fountain, Collegio del Cambio and the marvellous Prior’s Palace.
The highlight of the journey is day 6, including the Chairman’s Collection experience. The day begins with a visit to the community-based cooperative, Laboratorio Giuditta Brozzetti in Perugia, one of the few remaining traditional frame hand weaving workshops in Italy. Through funds provided by The Travel Corporation’s not-for-profit organization, TreadRight, the Laboratorio was able to establish education tools for spreading the tradition of weaving and build in e-commerce capabilities to increase online sales. This has, in turn, provided a stable source of income for the cooperative. Continuing on, we set off for the Italian hill town of Tuscany, San Gimignano, to explore and meet a master gelato maker before travelling to the Chianti region.
We pull up to the Castello di Fonterutoli, situated in the stunning Chianti region of Tuscany. Marchese Francesco Mazzei awaits in front of the elegant iron gates of his dreamy Tuscan villa. His tasteful sense of style exudes an air of sophistication, while his smile says he’s humble and makes us feel welcome. We’re all greeted by his loyal companions, six of his dogs that live on the property. For over 24 generations, the Mazzei family has perfected the art of winemaking so there’s no one better to learn from than the Marchese himself. He and his family have been pioneers and champions of Chianti wines since the very beginning and Luxury Gold guests have the opportunity to learn the art of winemaking directly from him.
Mazzei’s castle is magnificent and we start with a private tour in the picturesque village, right next to it. The cobblestones, rustic buildings and vines of pink flowers add classic Italian charm to the ambiance as we make our way down the country road towards the winery itself. The other guests start asking the Marchese about his life and he openly recounts stories of his upbringing. “I used to play hide and seek with the local children over there,” Francesco exclaims as he points towards a forested area.
We stroll through the lush vineyards to the winery and we head down to the astonishing cellar, with thousands of barrels full of locally produced, world renowned wine. Francesco begins to explain the winemaking process and the progress his family has made since they first started producing. He notes that the most surprising of visitors for him was Billy Joel and how much he enjoyed tasting the wine – perhaps an indication that the wine produced here is exceptional. After we explore the cellar and learn how the family has perfected the art of winemaking, we are informed it’s lunch time. Everyone receives a delicious glass of wine and we are refueled with homemade pasta from the family’s osteria using fresh, seasonal ingredients from Tuscany.
The experience offered a sincere connection with a remarkable character, full of regional expertise and the ability to bring you into his world. I believe these opportunities to meet legends that are otherwise inaccessible are one-of-a-kind. Francesco and characters of his calibre allow guests to see a country through a local lens and heightened perspective, while leaving a lasting impression and memories that stay a lifetime. What more can you ask for?The full Ultimate Italy journey continues through Florence, Pisa, Manarola, Verona, Cinque Terre, and Venice for another 6 days with an option to extend the trip on the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express for an incredible overnight journey to Paris. The complete journey with the Orient-Express extension lasts 16 days.