Italy Connoisseurs can arrange a private viewing of the Sistine Chapel for clients. // © 2010 BryanGeek
Fulvio Fares and Simone Moscone create luxury travel packages for visitors to Italy. // © 2010 Italy Connoisseurs
As we wandered through PompeiI’s Terme Suburbane (Suburban Baths), our guide pointed out the evocative artwork on the walls, dating back some 2,000 years. The baths, located on the Porta Marina, are filled with gorgeous art and mosaics and give insight to ancient culture — but not just anyone can stroll right in to admire it.
Today, the Suburban Baths are largely off limits to the general visitor. In order to keep the deteriorationof its treasures to a minimum, only a few visitors a day are allowed inside.
Our VIP admission was organized by tour operator Italy Connoisseurs, which specializes in creating unique, high-end itineraries for individuals and small groups.
Italy Connoisseurs was created in 2009 by Fulvio Fares and Simone Paolo Moscone, veterans of the hospitality and tourism industries. Fulvio Fares has spent much of his 20 years as an independent travel consultant, organizing elite programs for traveling business professionals. Simone Moscone started his career as a concierge at The Savoy in London and, in 2007, Conde Nast Traveler named Moscone one of the top 10 concierges in the world.
Together, the two gentlemen have combined their passion for travel and their extensive networks throughout Italy with a strong commitment to customer service — there are very few travel requests that Italy Connoisseurs can’t accommodate.
My needs in Italy were simple. Visiting Pompeii’s Suburban Baths and not having to wait in line for tickets at the Vatican were as demanding as I got. These requests proved to be child’s play for the tour operator, whose services can include meeting a client at the airport before customs or organizing a private viewing of the Sistine Chapel.
But while the unique and exclusive is no problem (they have even organized a papal visit for one traveler), where Italy Connoisseurs truly excels is in determining a traveler’s interests and creating a one-of-a-kind program that matches his or her needs. Recently, for example, the tour operator flew a client to a working truffle farm where he was able to participate in the hunt for truffles, followed by a dinner made from the fruits of his labor.
The services that Italy Connoisseurs provides include standard points of interest and tours but always with a VIP bent. For instance, clients can shop for the perfect pair of Italian shoes but, with Italy Connoisseurs, they have experienced personal shoppers at their beck and call. The personal shoppers will escort them to boutiques carrying all the major designer labels and, more importantly, clients will visit some of the finest, relatively undiscovered tailors in the country. To that end, clients can have a suit handmade by the same people who dress the country’s top politicians and gentry.
And while much of Italy Connoisseurs’ business comes from direct referrals, it also conducts a lot of business with the retail travel agent.
“We love to work with travel agents,” said Fares. “Because we can really create a program that matches their clients’ needs, it is a perfect way for everyone to do business.”
Because Italy Connoisseurs’ programs are highly customizable, it doesn’t pay through a standard GDS commission system; however, the tour operator works directly with travel agents to create an individual commission structure.