Brian — Tour Manager
Brian is the owner and lead Tour Director at Bella Italia Tours; his great-grandparents emigrated from Sicily to the U.S. in the early 1900’s and he has always felt a strong connection to his Italian heritage. Brian made his first trip to Italy almost 20-years-ago and immediately fell in love with the lifestyle, the culture and, of course, the food! Since that first trip, Brian has returned countless times and his bond with “il Bel Paese” continues to grow to this day.
After college, Brian landed a position with one of Italy’s most prestigious wine producers which gave him the opportunity to gain even more in-depth insights into Italian culture and history.
During the two decades Brian has spent exploring Italy and sharing it with others, he earned his accreditation as a Certified International Tour Manager and formed Bella Italia Tours. He continues to develop and maintain friendships with people throughout Italy and travels extensively whether for business or pleasure.
As part of a multifaceted career, Brian also spent 10 years as a professional wedding photographer and still enjoys photography as a hobby.
Lars Leicht — Tour Host and "Wine Sherpa in Chief"
If it takes getting chased by wild boar to learn the backroads of Tuscany, Lars Leicht qualifies. Though Lars was on a bicycle at the time and heading downhill, the boar was able to keep up. Maybe it was the pack of hunters in hot pursuit, and maybe the boar was trying to use Lars as cover. Either way, both Lars and the boar seemed relieved when they each took a different fork in the road.
Lars first fell in love with Italy while on a university study program in 1984. He then had the good fortune to go to work for a leading Italian wine importer which helped bring him to Italy pretty much every year since — more frequently in the last ten years as he brings groups of professional sommeliers on discovery tours. Lars lived in Tuscany for three years, all the while making key discoveries and life-long relationships that continue to build and expand; he also has an extensive network of family in the small town of Anagni, outside of Rome, where his grandparents grew up.
Lars loves the big cities with their museums and treasures, but much prefers to be off the beaten path and to go where the locals go. Being fluent in Italian helps; and he still learns some local dialect on his adventures.
A former journalist and wine industry veteran, Lars now dedicates his time to helping others discover the insider secrets and backroad joys of Italy as the aptly named “Wine Sherpa in Chief” for his
Vino Viaggio agency and works closely with the Tomaines on their Bella Italia Escorted Tours.
Shall we join Lars on the less traveled route?
Bernadette — Office Manager, Assistant Tour Manager
Having lived in Italy for 10 years, Bernadette is fluent in Italian and has an in-depth knowledge of the culture of “Il bel paese.” After earning her Master’s Degree in Italian Studies, she went on to become a teacher and enjoys introducing her students to this beautiful language.
During the summer months, Bernadette acts as Assistant Tour Manager and accompanies Brian on many of his tours.
Brandon — Tour Manager
Brandon left behind a thriving career in the Salon and Beauty industry to pursue his true passion: travel — but his many years in the business helped him to develop one of the most attributes of a great Tour Director: People Skills. A graduate of the International Guide Academy in Denver, Colorado, Brandon began leading tours for Bella Italia with the philosophy that the client always comes first. His fun-loving spirit and attention to detail make every tour one that his clients will remember for a lifetime. In addition to his love for travel, Brandon is an avid photographer and foodie and enjoys sharing these passions with others.
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