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 only supposed to stay for one semester, but after falling in love with Piero and the Italian culture, she ended up staying for four years.
After the wedding, the couple moved to Dallas. They settled in Lake Highlands, living on Edgecove Road and raised their family, but couldn’t help but feel a void in their lives.
“When we first moved to the states, Piero always wanted to do something that connected his home culture to Dallas,” says Katie.
Piero started importing and distributing wine and truffles from Le Marche. After meeting the famous pastry baker Margaret Braun and having the opportunity to organize a trip for her to Italy, he decided to create a tour service.
He lacked business experience, so he enrolled in classes.
“I would like to take the best part of America, which is the business side, and combine it with the best part of Italy, which is the food and wine,” he says.
IN 2015, Pagliardinis launched Italiana Tours. Over the past seven years, Piero and Katie have grown their tour service, creating comprehensive food and wine tours that specialize in giving their clients the authentic Italian experience in the very place they first met, Le Marche.
“For tourists, people who come here, they can discover the real Italy,” says Piero.
To most, the location is unknown, 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 begin with appetizers of local meats and cheeses, along with salads and pasta. He says the second course in Italy is then dedicated to meat, such as slow-cooked beef served with a red wine. For the grand finale, customers are served mascarpone dessert or homemade cookies along with a cherry wine.
“Usually 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 – and cooking with local chefs, wine and olive oil tasting, and in autumn tours, truffle hunting with a local guide and dog.
“Our big ongoing complaint is that there’s too much food on tour,” jokes Katie.
Visiting historical sights such as the Ducal Palace and the Church of the Dead and excursions on the Metauro River are sprinkled into the itinerary. Le Marche also hosts local festivals, the biggest being the truffle festival in October, which is a favorite of Italiana Tours.
Art and writing workshops are also offered for those interested in finding inspiration in Le Marche. These classes are taught by successful authors and artists, some native to Italy, and run throughout the week, such as author Jen Knox and artist Mary Whyte.
With the popularity of the business, the Pagliardini family moved back to Le Marche last year so they could be in the field for tours, but have kept their headquarters in Lake Highlands.
When asked why they chose to keep the business in Dallas, Piero explained that since most of their customers were from the United States, it seemed like a good idea to keep it in a familiar location.
“The dream still lives on in Lake Highlands,” says Piero.
The Pagliardini family expressed their appreciation for Dallas and the opportunities it has given them to grow 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 for any Lake Highlands resident interested in a tour.
“We’d love for them to join us this October for a creative retreat with author and Dallas native Suzanne Frank,” says Piero.
“It’s open to artists (painters, writers, photographers) at all levels, as well as non-artists who are just looking to get away and find their inspiration. I hope they can join us this October to bring their spirit back to Le Marche on this unparalleled tour of culture, food and wine!”
For more information on Italiana Tours, visit italianatours.com.