There are thousands of travel agents and tour guides that specialize in trips to Italy. However, there are not many like Giovanni Catalano and MJ Parri of Italy Plus Tours. Certainly, they, like the thousands of others, guarantee their clients will receive the best experience in European travel, especially to Italy. However, what sets them apart is not only their love for their home country, but their goal to ensure that each and every traveler experiences that same feeling on their trip.
While the “Plus” in Italy Plus Tour’s name technically means that travelers get to experience Italy plus other European countries, after talking to the company for just a few short minutes one will realize it means much more than that. Sure, a client can choose a pre-determined tour listed on their website, for example a 13-day itinerary through Spain, Italy and France, however, what that client may not realize is that many surprises could await. Perhaps there is a music concert that the partners feel the tour clients would enjoy – one that was not on the original itinerary. There is a good chance the group will sing and dance the night away at the show. Any chance Italy Plus Tours can get to go that extra mile for their tour groups, they do. And it happens on almost every tour!
One of the most important pieces of each tour is the personalization that Giovanni and MJ provide. This past summer, the duo took a group to southern Italy and Sicily. There was a gentleman in the group whose father was from a small village in Italy – one that was not on the original tour itinerary. But, Giovanni made it a point to get the group there. Obviously, the gentleman was thrilled, but the great part is, so was the rest of the group. “We become family overnight,” Giovanni says. And MJ concurs. “Prior to our departure for Europe, we all meet over dinner.
We want to get to know our clients and we want them to get to know each other. It starts as an informational meeting (everything from discussing how to use your cell phone in Europe to the details of the itinerary), but by the end, all of the travelers have become one big family and every single one of us is over-excited to begin our trip,” she says. Perhaps the best part of this dinner is the fact that Giovanni and MJ get to know their group well, so much so that they can begin searching for those extra-special surprises, those “plus” moments. MJ even experienced a special surprise herself on her first Italy Plus Tour (when she and her family were guests!).
She was born in Vercelli in the Piedmont region of Italy and Giovanni made sure that Vercelli was part of the group’s itinerary. They visited the church where MJ was baptized, got blessed by the priest there and followed that up with a homecooked dinner at a nearby farmhouse. The entire group experienced the laughs, the tears and the hugs. These are just a few examples of the heartwarming moments Italy Plus Tours creates for its guests. How do they do it?
Giovanni was born in Comiso in the Province of Ragusa, Sicily. His father was finally able to enter the U.S. at the age of 53 and Giovanni came with him. They had relatives in Akron, OH so they settled in northeast Ohio. Giovanni’s knowledge and connections to Italy allow him to offer his clients the best travel experiences. He works directly with his close friend, Biagio, who owns and operates a tour company in Italy. “About 15 years ago, I started organizing tours to Italy for our family and club members. The tours were personal, fun, full of culture, affordable, family-oriented, and one-of-a-kind journeys…before I knew it, my passion of sharing my love of Italy became my second career.” MJ partnered with Giovanni not too long ago and the rest is history. By eliminating the travel agency, Giovanni and MJ pass the savings on to their clients.
“The company wasn’t created to make money, but to provide Italian Americans the opportunity to fall in love with Italy.” Italy Plus Tours can customize any tour per clients’ requests whether it be for private parties or organizations. And the savings are unmatched. Another “plus?” There are no surprise costs – even for those special moments they bring their travelers. With all of the “pluses” Italy Plus Tours offers, it’s time to make the call and schedule your next trip to Italy. Giovanni and MJ assure: “Your tour will create memories to last a lifetime. You will return from your trip and encourage your family and friends to join us on our next tour!”