Sure, Italy may be a favorite tourist destination, and you may have even visited more than once, but we guarantee you’ve never experienced it the way the Obamas and Oprah have.
On seperate travel tours (though we wouldn’t put it past them to travel together), both the Obama family and Oprah experienced Italy like true locals thanks in large part to the kind folks at Access Italy.
“Access Italy provides unique access to venues that are hardly accessible to the public,” Simone Amorico, co-founder of the exclusive tour company, explained to Travel + Leisure. Through Access Italy tours, guides provide both local and authentic experiences that make “clients feel like they are immersed in the Italian culture," he said.
And it’s because of this unique approach that Oprah named it her “favorite” tour operator. And, although there’s no way to confirm this, we’d love to think she called up her friends Michelle and Barack to personally recommend the service too.
So why did Oprah love her experience so much? According to Amorico, Oprah took part in the tour company’s truffle hunting excursion in Umbria. She also visited the "Godfather" house in Sicily (yes, the very same one featured in the movie), and even visited the offices of the mayor of Rome and checked out its breathtaking views over the Roman Forum.
While Oprah certainly gets the best of the best wherever she goes, it turns out that you can have the exact same experience as the queen of daytime television. “We treat every client like a star,” Amorico said.
For example, the tour company often arranges cooking classes in a private home with a Roman family alongside an expert Italian chef. They reportedly did something similar for the Obamas. Though their travel itinerary technically needs to remain a secret, it’s rumored that the former first family enjoyed gelato making in one of the oldest gelaterias in Rome.
The company, Amorico explained, hires top tier drivers and guides who they train themselves to ensure the highest level of quality and attention to detail across their tours. And those tours, all of which are private, include a behind the scenes Vatican tour, a gondola ride in Venice, a private dinner on a Roman rooftop with musical entertainment, truffle hunting, and wine tasting in the most exclusive Barolo wineries, or even a boat excursion off the Amalfi Coast. With each package the group will also book your hotels, transfers, make restaurant suggestions, take care of ticketing, and throw in 24-hour on-call service.
And they’ll even throw in tennis lessons, like they did with Ben Stiller as he prepared to film "Zoolander 2," because as it happens Amorico was a top tennis champion in the United States years ago.
As for his favorite tour, Amorico said it will “always remain the Vatican but in a special way,” because they have special access to unique rooms and the ability to visit the Sistine Chapel after hours.
Of course, the tours are for everyone, not just the rich and famous. According to Amorico they are great for “couples and families but also grandparents with grandchildren.” As he said, Italy is perfect to visit any time of year, but the spring and fall are particularly stunning seasons. And hey, as an added bonus, you never know who you’ll run into along the way.