Rachel is a reporter/contributor for the AJT and graduated from the University of Central Florida in Orlando. After post graduate work at Columbia University, she teaches writing at Georgia State and hosts/produces cable programming. She can currently be seen on Atlanta Interfaith Broadcasters.
Debra and David Levinson take a break from a bike ride near the medieval village of Pitigliano, known as Little Jerusalem.
Debra and David Levinson manage to be in two places at once. The founders of Mr. & Mrs. Italy are themselves Mr. and Mrs. Italy, and they customize experiences for customers traveling to the country while arranging every intricate detail from Sandy Springs.
A summer trip to Italy 20 years ago with their children motivated another trip that winter, and another trip the following season, until the Levinsons were traveling back several times per year with the family.
Debra’s efforts to make the trips educational for the children spawned the couple’s first book geared toward Italian travels with kids. The feedback the Levinsons received from readers wanting their help in planning their own Italian vacations led to what their business is today: a personalized approach to travel through all 20 regions of Italy.
Mr. & Mrs. Italy (www.mrandmrsitaly.com) provides an app that travelers can open on smartphones when they land so they can see their full itineraries. The agency arranges everything from dinner reservations and museum tickets to car rentals and instructions on what to do immediately after landing.
Kathy and Rob Hoddeson of Georgia have a red Ferrari to get around Tuscany.
The Levinsons don’t work from a template, and no two trips are the same. Mr. & Mrs. Italy gauges the traveler’s interests and customizes the trip to fit them.
Vacations centered on cooking, art and outdoor activities are most common, but even those itineraries have a wide range. The Levinsons specialize in finding less popular towns and more niche activities.
Photos courtesy of Mr. & Mrs. Italy: Marisa and Sean Costigan of Georgia take a cooking class with Mama Anna in Gaiole in the Chianti region.
Based on the three months a year the Levinsons spend in Italy and their intimate knowledge of the country, they put together an annual guidebook that is sold around the world.
“There is no substitute for the experience you get from actually hiking the Cinque Terre, biking through Tuscany, tasting fresh pressed olive oil, or making pizza and pasta with Nonna,” David Levinson said.
Zachery and Lara Ezor of North Carolina enjoy Cichetto Row in Venice.
Travelers interested in history or Judaism, for example, may be surprised to learn that Italy has a deep Jewish heritage.
The Levinsons have planned Italian excursions that feature Pitigliano, a small village in Tuscany known as Little Jerusalem, where visitors can see the mountain Jews used to protect themselves from invaders.
Other trips have included a boutique hotel in Sicily where the oldest mikvahs in Europe can be found hidden under a set of stairs. Buildings where Jews were hidden during the Holocaust and where Jewish refugees were welcomed can be seen in nearby cities.
Members of the Centracchio family of Vermont kayak along the Amalfi coast.
The Levinsons also have relationships with hotels that offer Passover celebrations and with kosher restaurants.
Mr. & Mrs. Italy’s business is based on referrals, and clients come from all over the country. Prices of the customized trips vary widely: An eight-to-10-day trip could be $6,000 or $60,000, depending on the itinerary.