24 April 2018: There's only one way to tour Southern Italy: in style. But that doesn't mean you can't get hands-on, as a group of award-winning Travellers Choice agents discovered this month on an exclusive seven-night Back-Roads Touring educational.
The agents - all winners of the national travel network's coveted Silver Choice Awards - immersed themselves in the cuisine, architecture and history of Naples, the spectacular Amalfi coast and the chic boutiques of Capri.
There were no end of high-brow highlights, including the crumbling marble temples of Paestum, the archaeological icon of Pompeii and the 18th century Royal Palace of Caserta, the last great creation of the Italian Baroque.
But along the way the agents tasted Southern Italy's true flavour, with a traditional Campania cooking lesson, limoncello tasting in a languid lemon grove and some Falanghina wine tasting in a rustic farmhouse in Sant'Agata de' Goti.
Travellers Choice General Manager Marketing Robyn Mitchell says the group also tried their hand at ceramics in Minori, and in the process helped efforts to save a local hero.
"Donkeys were once used for transport all along the Amalfi coast but they are slowly being replaced and there is a campaign to save them," says Mitchell. "We each designed a clay donkey face and all of the faces will now be part of an installation to raise awareness and raise money for the cause."
While the artisan activities were certainly hands on, Mitchell says that being Italian they were still stylish.
"The cooking class at Tenuta Seliano – an authentic farm-inn - was taken by a Baronessa, Cecilia Bellelli, who led a team of local ladies who showed us the right way to round pizza bases and wrap ravioli."
Mitchell says the most impressive thing about the tour, however, was the fact that Back-Roads Touring managed to bedazzle some of the industry's most well-travelled agents with hidden tourism gems.
"Back-Roads Touring took a group of travel agents with more than 150 years combined experience off the main tourist track to destinations and experiences they never knew existed," says Mitchell. "This is a company that genuinely lives up to its name."
Each year a total of 30 Travellers Choice members are awarded Gold, Silver or Bronze Choice Awards, with winners determined by the level of support they provide the network's preferred suppliers. As well as dedicated educational trips, recipients enjoy exclusive sales incentives and receive service grants worth up to $1500 per agency, which they can use towards member services.
Travel Daily 24 April 2018