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Roses Against a Stone Wall
There’s something about that contrasting imagery - the elegant rose with the rough, hewn stone - that draws one in. The beauty of the rose is accentuated by the stone - and vice versa. It’s as if each is more visually appealing because of the other. The beauty of it compels us to grab our camera - or even a paint brush and canvas.
Off the Beaten Strada tours in Tuscany - and her gentler sister, Umbria - are designed with the rose and the stone wall in mind.
On our tours, we happily traipse along country lanes to take in the beauty of Tuscan landscape, get our shoes dirty wandering through vineyards, and tag along with a truffle hunter and his dog on a winding forest pathway.
Yet later that evening we can be found sipping a bubbling Prosecco as we watch the sun set behind the Tuscan hills, enjoying a chef-prepared gourmet meal and then cozying up in our luxurious suite in a 15 century villa.
It’s this fabulous contrast - the refined and the rustic, the organic and organized - that our guests love, and this is what makes them feel so deeply connected to their distinctly Italian experience.
Our vision is to bring a sense of wonder back into travel, and to act as a bridge between our guests and the Italian culture, while fostering a mutual sense of appreciation and respect. We believe these elements not only make vacations memorable, but create positive human to human connections that touch hearts and change lives.
For 10 years we've been hosting extraordinary small group tours in Tuscany and Umbria. Because we live in Italy and are continually exploring and traveling our beloved Tuscany, and her lesser-know, sister region, Umbria, we KNOW these regions inside and out. We know the places, the people and the hidden gems. That's why we're able to create and host outstanding small-group tours that allow you to experience and enjoy bella Italia to the fullest, and why our guests continually give us a 5 star rating.
While others head to over-crowed areas , we visit authentic, culturally rich hill towns and historic sites - from Tuscany's postcard-perfect Val d'Orcia and vineyard-circled hill towns to Umbria's ancient Etruscan sites and marvelously medieval villages. Our specialty and passion is sharing with our guests Tuscany's hidden treasures and best-kept-secrets. Our signature road-less-traveled tour approach has been developed over years of on-the-tour-testing. We don't pack too much into our days, we partner and collaborate exclusively with local Italians and we allow daily opportunities for both choice and independence - from museum visits and shopping to photo ops and walking.
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We're intent on putting a sense of wonder back into travel. That sense of wonder - that palpable thrill of travel - awaits you on the road less traveled. This is where you find room to breathe - to feel curiosity in another culture, interest in its unique traditions and pure excitement as you experience new things. Now, combine your sense of wonder with the spectacular beauty of Tuscany (and the friendly embrace of local Italians) and your emotions become even more intense, and your journey - this life experience - becomes fascinating, breath-taking ... and fun beyond your imagination!
While others head to over-visited towns and sites, with crowds of tourists, we instead steer towards countless culturally rich areas in Tuscany and Umbria that have maintained their authenticity, and where our guests can enjoy Italy's breathtaking hidden treasures and jaw-dropping, best-kept-secrets. Plus we partner and collaborate only with Italians (in other words, we keep it real) and we specialize in authentic, cultural experiences (nothing touristy or "canned"). Our guests tell us over and over again how thrilled they are to experience Italy as an insider. Don't take our word for it, please read our guest reviews.
Our small group tours are truly small (no more than 14 guests), owner led and always include experiences that are personalized, customized and not found in guidebooks. From private guided tours, irresistible village walks and oh-so-fun cooking lessons to top-notch wine tastings, amazing artisan demonstrations and entertaining operettas, our boutique-style, small-group tours allows us to include unforgettable demonstrations and activities with friendly, local Italians that simply won't work with larger groups.
And then there's the food. Of course Italy is world renowned for its amazing food, and we're intent on sharing the finest cuisine that the regions have to offer. Breakfasts include a variety of items, from freshly baked cornetti and marmalade-topped crostate to yogurts, eggs, fresh fruit, cheeses and cold cuts. Lunches and dinners are quite simply delectable and always include regional specialties. Whether we're dining at a family-run, hand-selected restaurant or enjoying a meal served up by a talented, in-house Chef, each meal is paired with excellent regional wines - often chosen by our outstanding sommelier - that compliment our menus.
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"It exceeded all my dreams ... Pamela, you are the best! Your knowledge and personal connections with the "locals", not to mention your ability as a great story teller, made the trip extra special. We could have never had those experiences on our own or with any other tour group. Grazie!! Grazie!!
~ Melissa G.
"Pamela created the most amazing experience for all of us. Her connections with local Italians, and her love for them, is obvious. I can't recommend her tours strongly enough. Pamela absolutely delivers what she says she's going to deliver - and more."
~ Mindy T
"Off the beaten strada is exactly what Pam's tours are all about! Of course we enjoyed the wine and the food and the sites, but having access to such amazing, welcoming Italians was far more than we expected. Thank you so much, Pam!"
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A Note From Founder/President Pamela Haack
"I've been living along the border of Tuscany and Umbria, and exploring Italy's less-traveled areas in these regions, for more than 15 years and (perhaps like you) I'm downright passionate about Italian history, culture and art - and smitten by the welcoming nature of local Italians. I created Off the Beaten Strada in 2008, a unique, boutique-style, small group tour company with a focus on visiting less-traveled areas in Tuscany and her gentler sister-region, Umbria, because I noticed that travelers, like you, were missing out on the details: unique sites, spectacular scenery and fabulous people that make Italy - and Italian culture - irresistible.
So we added details. Lots of them. Then I surrounded myself with a stellar Italian team, from expert travel coordinators to delightful local guides to welcoming trip hosts to extraordinary drivers. And the rest, as they say, is history.
I invite you to browse our tours, contact us with any questions, then join us in Italy for the trip of a lifetime - off the beaten strada - where we put a sense of wonder back into travel."
~ Pamela Haack