My husband Gary Portuesi — who has years of experience developing custom, high-end travel for clients — runs a business expressly dedicated to culinary trips. His company, Authentic Explorations, plans and manages itineraries in Europe, Canada, the US and the Caribbean. His trips offer a level of insider access and curation that’s won prestigious spots on Travel & Leisure’s “A-List” and Condé Nast Traveler’s “Travel Specialist” list — six years in a row!
Below is a snapshot of where we go and what we offer. Feel free to contact me with any questions.
Sal Rizzo, Owner-CEO
WHERE WE GO
Italy, Spain, France, Greece, Portugal, Malta + any culinary destination you want.
US, Canada, The Caribbean
California, Great Lakes, Hawaii, Mid-Atlantic, New England, New York,
Quebec, Pacific NW, Southern US
We can take you to any culinary destination:
Argentina, Hungary, Scotland, South Africa. Just ask us!
WHAT WE DO/DRINK/EAT
Our partnership offers one-of-a-kind travel experiences that are custom-made for individuals, couples, families, small groups and honeymooners. We specialize in tailor-made, dream vacations that feature:
- Luxury resorts and 5-star hotels
- Wine tastings at award-winning wineries
- Private guided tours of ancient towns, art galleries and monuments
- Culinary experiences with highly acclaimed chefs (Michelin or not)
- Cooking classes with locals (such as pasta and bread making)
- Experiences with local producers (such as cheesemongers, oyster farmers, truffle hunters and olive oil mills)
- Exceptional experiences in private yachts, sports cars, and hot air balloons
- Relaxation on private beaches and at spas
- Private transportation in luxury vehicles
Below are sample locations, venues, and activities — so you can start planning today. We’ve selected a handful of ideas to stimulate the senses…….
We often recommend Sicily to clients who are looking for a destination that has a diversity of things to see and do along with amazing food and wine. Sicilians jokingly refer to their island as a continent because of the wide array of options to keep visitors busy. There are excellent hotels and many villa rental options throughout the island. The archaeological parks of Agrigento, Segesta, Selinunte and Siracusa will keep the history buff busy, while Mt. Etna, the nature preserves, and national parks throughout the island provide a diversity of hiking experiences. You can yacht around the island, visit some of the outer islands, and, if you're looking for a show-stopping moment, drop anchor on the northern side of the island of Stromboli and watch the volcano erupt (known as The Path of Fire) — at night while sipping a delicious Nero d’Avola and indulging in cannoli.PLAN A TRIP
The heel of Italy has become a hotspot for Italophiles looking for the next culinary adventure after having visited the more familiar destinations. Lecce is known as the Florence of the South — a city that hosts Baroque masterpieces and treasures of Italy including a Roman amphitheater and noble palaces. Traveling down the Adriatic Coast, we get to the charming town of Otranto with its Aragonese Castle and cathedral. Further south, the Castello di Ugento hosts a renowned cooking school where you can learn how to make the region’s most beloved recipes. At Li Veli, a renowned Salento winery, we’ll meet the head enologist and indulge in a private wine tasting with lunch. We’ll also meet a local cheese-maker and learn more about mozzarella’s wildly indulgent cousin, burrata. In Martina Franca, we’ll taste the famous capocollo and visit artisan workshops and boutiques. In Altamura, we’ll learn how traditional breads are made. At a local olive-oil estate, we’ll see olive groves and an ancient olive-oil press that pre-dates the Romans, and learn how this simple ingredient has shaped history and culture. And in the white city of Ostuni, we’ll navigate the tiny winding streets and sit in the piazza for a luscious meal that captures the essence of this extraordinary region.PLAN A TRIP
Our pick for this year's top spot in France is in the South. Nice, the unofficial capital of the French Riviera, offers year-round sunshine, vibrant street life, and a stunning seaside location. Admire the city’s gorgeous Belle Époque architecture and wander the Cours Saleya market featuring the best local produce, cheese, olives, sausages — plus handmade soaps, tasty preserves, and flowers. There's a wealth of amazing art museums honoring Picasso, Matisse, and Chagall, to name a few. We also recommend visiting Èze, a medieval village perched on cliffs high above the sea; it's a delightful step back in time, and blissfully calm for the Riviera. The well-preserved stone buildings, winding alleyways, 14th-century chapels, and dramatic Mediterranean backdrop make this tiny village seem like a movie set.PLAN A TRIP
SPAIN’S BASQUE COUNTRY
Where to begin in Spain? Because of its culinary tradition, we concentrate on the Basque region. In Getaria, a charming fishing village, you can enjoy fresh-caught fish right at the port, accompanied by the local Txakoli white wine. Set between the sea and vine-covered mountains, Getaria feels a world away from nearby cosmopolitan San Sebastián (a 30-minute trip). Renowned restaurants, a world-class Balenciaga museum, Txakoli wineries, artisan cheesemakers, and a stunning coastline make Getaria the ideal place to experience the coastal Basque culture. Nearby are the vine-covered hills of Rioja — one of the most prestigious wine regions in Spain. You can visit the bodegas (wineries) to see their vineyards and taste different varieties alongside local culinary specialties. Finally, take a Pintxo Tour of San Sebastián, arguably, the culinary capital of the world, with hundreds of bustling pintxo bars. Learn about the city's passion for food as you try various snacks freshly prepared with seasonal items. Listen as your guide points out essential ingredients in Basque cuisine, and treat your taste buds to mouthwatering pintxos accompanied by rich and spicy wines.PLAN A TRIP
Our pick for a visit to Portugal is concentrated in the North. Porto boasts a distinctly Old World aesthetic with its intricate Baroque churches (including the 12th century cathedral), Art Nouveau cafés, and the many port wine lodges. Guimarães, just 45 minutes away, is considered the birthplace of Portugal and has charmingly narrow cobble streets and delightful plazas with open air cafes. If you stay at The Yeatman in Porto, one of Europe's leading wine hotels, you’ll have panoramic views over the Old Town and the river, access to the only 2-Michelin-starred restaurant in the city, and access to its extensive cellars. Consider visiting the charming town of Guimarães, known as the birthplace of Portugal because Alfonso Henriques (who went on to be the first king of Portugal) was born here. With narrow cobble streets and delightful plazas with open air cafes, Guimarães is a great, traditional, and peaceful northern Portuguese city.PLAN A TRIP
SAN FRANCISCO BAY AREA / WINE COUNTRY
If you're missing Europe and craving a culinary spectacle along with topnotch wines, consider a trip to San Francisco and the wine regions to the north: Napa and Sonoma. Start with a city tour with a local guide, exploring Alcatraz at night, and then tasting your way through San Francisco’s foodie scene after exploring Mexican-American art in The Mission. Then, move on to wine country to blend wine with a world-class winemaker during a private class focused on Napa Cabernets, and assist in the harvest process at a private winery during “crush” season. Top it all of with a fabulous dinner at Christopher Kostow’s casual concept, The Charter Oak, in St. Helena.PLAN A TRIP
What Our Customers Say
I had an absolutely amazing trip to Italy, VERY memorable! The hotels were all incredibly beautiful and in perfect locations. The guides and drivers were always friendly, prompt, and clearly very experienced in hospitality. I didn’t have a single issue or even minor delay… The personalized, private guided tours were very special and was a big highlight of the trip. I will certainly use Authentic Italy again in the future for my next trip to Italy!
Our villa was fantastic… The owners live close by
and you know this is a labor of love. She owns a restaurant called La Fontanella, she is an amazing chef as well, and we did a cooking class with her and it was amazing. The views of the villa are incredible... And I can honestly share that all the guides and drivers all said how much they love working for you so that shows how much they respect you as well. Leaving tomorrow and taking with me the most amazing memories from our trip.
Since we got married, Jason and I have become
smitten with Italy; this was our 5th trip. I love planning our vacations and this was the first time we used a travel specialist. I can honestly say that this trip was worth every penny and took the experience to a whole new level. Authentic Italy is incredible and I've been recommending you to friends and family! I am thrilled to hear that you are expanding to other countries!