Piero and Katie Pagliardini met in 2006 when Katie was teaching English abroad in Le Marche, a region in eastern Italy. Katie, a Dallas native, was supposed to only stay for a semester, but after falling in love with Piero and the Italian culture, ended up staying four years.
After getting married, the couple moved to Dallas. They resided in Lake Highlands, living on Edgecove Road, and started their family, but couldn’t help but feel a gap in their lives.
“When we first moved to the states, Piero always wanted to do something that was connecting his home culture to Dallas,” says Katie.
Piero began importing and distributing wine and truffles from Le Marche. After meeting well-known cake baker Margaret Braun and having the opportunity of organizing a trip for her in Italy, he decided to create a tour service.
He lacked business experience, so he signed up for classes.
“I would like to take the best part of America, which is the business side, and put it together with the best part of Italy, which is the food and wine,” he says.
In 2015, Pagliardinis launched Italiana Tours. Over the last seven years, Piero and Katie have grown their tour service, creating immersive food and wine tours that specialize in giving their customers the authentic Italian experience right in the place they first met, Le Marche.
“For the tourists, the people who come over here, they can discover the real Italy,” says Piero.
To most, the location is unfamiliar, but to Piero it is his home. He describes it as very similar to Tuscany, without the overwhelming number of tourists.
Food is the heart of the tour. All meals start with appetizers of local cured meats and cheeses, along with salads and pasta. He says the second course in Italy is then dedicated to meat, such as slow-cooked veal that is served with a red wine. For the grand finale, customers are served homemade mascarpone or biscotti for dessert along with a cherry wine.
“Typically we have 11 meals in a week’s tour and my strong point is to make sure each one is unique with different wine pairings,” says Piero.
When travelers aren’t eating, they’re learning about food — cooking classes with local chefs, wine and olive oil tasting, and in the fall tours, truffle hunting with a local guide and dog.
“Our constant big complaint is that there is too much food on the tours,” jokes Katie.
Visiting historical sights such as the Ducal Palace and The Church of the Dead and excursions to the Metauro River are sprinkled into the itinerary. Le Marche also hosts local festivals, the biggest being the truffle festival in October, which is an Italian Tours favorite.
Art and writing workshops are also offered to those interested in finding inspiration in Le Marche. These classes are taught by successful authors and artists, some local to Italy, and span throughout the entire week, like author Jen Knox and artist Mary Whyte.
With the business gaining popularity, the Pagliardini family moved back to Le Marche this past year so they could be on the ground for the tours, but have kept their headquarters in Lake Highlands.
When asked why they chose to keep the business in Dallas, Piero explained that with most of their customers being from the United States, it seemed like a good idea to keep it in a familiar location.
“The dream is still living on in Lake Highlands,” says Piero.
The Pagliardinis expressed their appreciation for Dallas and the opportunities it gave them in growing their family and business.
Piero and Katie are always looking for new customers interested in their tours and say they will even include a neighborhood discount to any residents in Lake Highlands interested in a tour.
“We would love to have them join us this October for a creative retreat with author and Dallas local Suzanne Frank,” Piero says.
“It is open to various artists (painters, writers, photographers) at any level, as well as those non-artists who are just looking to get away and find their inspiration. I hope they can join us this October to restore their soul in Le Marche, on this incomparable culture, food and wine tour!”
For more information on Italian Tours, visit italianatours.com.