Parma’s No1 Trapadvisor reviewed tour host talks about making great Parma days
Where do Food n Walk tours differ?
In a word, quality… then there’s range too…
But there is no such thing as ‘a great agency’ only great guides..
Caterina is one of the most experienced foodies in Parma – and has selected a great team. Her grandfather was head of ConsorzioAgrario di Parma. This is her heritage.
I was formerly the marketing guru and senior host with Mavi Foods (Piacenza), advisor to Strada Del Po and content manager/senior host with Golosa.
We have taken time putting together the best quality tour in Parma, simply because we have always placed client and quality destinations first. Where we go others follow…
It’s also about personal energy and skills so after running 2 restaurants in Australia I got the bug for creative foodies and share a lot in common with my clients.
It’s about the families we visit, the client’s family vacation and our family too – the day is fun and a very big shared cultural experience … it’s really beautiful… much more than just cheese and ham!
FWT have breathtaking destinations… how did you find them?
… not easy but we know what clients want from their feedback and that shaped our vision.
Our Balsamico tour is in a different league to our competitors and was the most challenging to secure because we had to find somewhere to match our high product expectation and setting… we got lucky and now have an incredible maker. We’re very fortunate because where we we working with Parma Golosa we had a great click with the maker but we now have deeper insight from our new makers… and a wholly more passionate in-depth experience.
The tastings are not rushed… there are terraces, vineyards, vistas and 2 areas dedicated to the ageing – the ancient loft is simply unbelievable. It’s an amazing way to finish the day. I’m really excited.
We had 2 superb options for the Cheese tours and I’ve always got on well with the makers.
But the Parma ham site posed a problem because of the industrial nature of the plant process… we weren’t happy with the lack of asthetic with the ham factory we were forced to use working for the agency, so when we went solo we decided to find somewhere special… we’ve done that and some – it’s spectacular!
And lunch is again a completely unique moment as we ascend an ancient stone castle and look across the valley from the Reggio restaurant.
No other company has these spectacular spots.
Born in London working in Italy?
Yep it’s interesting because I was a bit nervous about that early on but I come from a dairy family in Isle of Wight actually… I really love the whole dairy vibe and in a way it was a coming home ’cause I have such a close affinity with Caterina born and bred here, that it is a bonus – I can relate to US humour, Australia dry and British self effacing banta… it just goes over the head of most locals so I think it really relaxes clients.
Why 3 Kings?
Well the cheese is regarded as the King of all cheeses… the ham has the branded with the regal 5 point crown Ducale and the Balsamico first mention by King Henrich III… all quite romantic really.
What’s the biggest challenge and the most rewarding thing?
The first 7 seconds my people have to meet me and not only like me but know that I am the real deal!
.. you cannot fake it!
You have to be at least 200% committed… and that leads me to the most satisfying part… seeing people kicking off the stress as the day unfolds… seeing people feeling totally happy and relaxed… food and good company tend to do that.
Have you ever had a real bad day at the office?
ha ha! not really but sometime tourists suffer a set back en route and arrive stressed… so you’re only as good as the bottom line.
I always orientate them and support with listening and open hearted but a cool head.
One group of Eastern European butchers needed a highly technical tour so I was chosen – turned out they were kinda ’emulating’ Parma Ham production so that was simply a case of being a touch mischievous about certain pacts and figures!! They ended up downg bottles of 40% Grappa like soda! Hillarious!
I remember another couple cancelled a tour because I sneezed (I suffer hay fever). Try as I could I couldn’t convince them it wasn’t a case of the black death!
In the end they recommended me to their best friends… but I was fairly devastated because I knew they had missed out on such a marvellous experience.
The great days number 99% have been astounding… as I say the tourists bring such special lives to the day.
That special unforgettable tour?
I always remember and think about the future together … my next group is my next best thing … how amazing the day will turn out to be.
But so many stand out. People who come and settle into the creativity going on from every walk of life. A couple of girls came on tour who were absolutely charming… wonderful company, funny and full of insights. When I asked them what they did they blushed and told me they were actually Catholic nuns. Expect the unexpected!
I’ve got buddies now from tours and we watch our lives change, stories develop, the babies come.
Caterina has a couple who send books over for our girls… it’s real. We named out 3rd daughter after the cheesmaker’s wife Anna who is a gem.
Finally, your price is a beater – Your value+quality is better..How did you manage that?
Well actually our focus has always been on client experience, on quality, and the joy factor – that’s why Cate and I got so many good TA reviews. So we always attend our people in the best possible way and allow them to make the day their own. It’s about balance and being aware.
We don’t do the megaphone guide bombarder thing!
Some guides I’ve trained don’t realise you can’t allow tourists eyes to glaze over!
We also donate to all our supplier sites – the other tour companies pay zero which we think affects quality of experience… as a result our sites are pleased to see us! We can shoulder the margin because we are direct and be confident in offering our clients the best destinations.