On a picturesque afternoon in mid-October, a traveler in Florence steps out of a pastry shop with a schiacciata con l’uva in hand. The man is Tony DeFilippis, founder and owner of Pranzo Tours.
The crowds in the Tuscany region’s capital city are a bit smaller this time of year but the weather is perfect, sun shining and temperatures in the low 70s. In true Tuscan style, Tony wanders over to a nearby bench in the piazza, unwraps his pastry and bites into the traditional seasonal flatbread made with sweet wine grapes, dusted sugar and baked in a wood-fired oven.
Schiacciata con l’uva is only available for a short time at the end of the wine grape harvest. It is a delicacy to be savored with flavors as rich as the Tuscany region. The fact that Tony knew just the right pastry to celebrate a perfect autumn day is why he created Pranzo Tours.
“It is impossible to travel to Italy and not experience the food,” Tony says with a smile. “Knowing where to go, what to eat, and when to eat it are some of the secrets to a true Italian experience.”
Since his first trip to Italy in 1999, Tony has traveled the country extensively to explore every region. To learn what makes each region distinct, understand its culture and the unique treasures that each may have, he has made nearly 50 trips over the past 20 years to uncover local secrets in every season.
Born in America to Italian parents, Tony has deep ancestral connections to Italy. His father was from a little town on the Tyrrhenian Sea halfway between Rome and Naples while his mother’s family was from Calabria on the “toe” of the mainland, only one mile from Sicily by boat.
In the DeFilippis household, Tony grew up eating the foods of Italy, his favorite being any sort of pasta. Every holiday was celebrated with traditional Italian family recipes. But it wasn’t until Tony’s parents 50th wedding anniversary that he experienced the real Italy.
The occasion was celebrated with a destination family reunion in Umbria. Tony assisted his mother in planning the entire event from lodging to food to activities. With 20 people set to make the trip from his hometown in Connecticut to a small hill town, it was a big undertaking. They managed every detail and Tony loved doing it.
The experience of staying at an Umbrian villa surrounded by family was transformative. It awakened a passion for the Italian lifestyle and revealed a new way to travel. “It really opened my eyes,” says Tony. “It was a truly authentic experience.”
Each morning Tony would stroll down to the market with his brother or brother-in-law to get fresh food for breakfast. Once items were selected they would meander back to the villa where the entire family would gather at a long picnic table to enjoy with espresso and conversation.
After breakfast, days were filled with sightseeing excursions, afternoon riposini and apperativi, and late family dinners. “We saw Rome and the Colosseum, Florence and the David, but our best memories are of the time spent gathered together at the dining table or at the villa pool.”
“It was extraordinary,” says Tony. “It was such an intimate and soulful way of seeing Italy.”
The experience was so moving that it inspired Tony to create Pranzo Tours to offer custom-designed vacations and destination events in Italy.
After working as a lawyer for over thirty years, Tony’s goal is to share his love for Italy and the Italian lifestyle. His frequent trips to different regions ensure that those who travel with Pranzo Tours experience the best of the best. He looks for the best tour guides, the best restaurants, the best wineries, the best memories.
Through the connections and collaborations that Tony has made and continues to cultivate on each trip, Pranzo Tours are customized to each unique group’s specifications for destinations, preferences, and special requirements.
When Tony first began, clients would call him three weeks in advance of their trip. Now he begins planning discussions up to a year in advance.
What makes traveling with Pranzo so unique are the intimate experiences designed into every trip. Private cooking classes with a retired restaurateur in his home after which you are given a book full of recipes. Incredible meals at restaurants tucked in quiet alleyways with introductions to meet the proprietor. Private wine tastings and vineyard tours, and so much more.
Tony prides himself on finding places that are less traveled including great works of art and architecture. If you want to explore an underground Etruscan city with a knowledgeable guide, he can bring you there. If you want to see a hand-written letter by St. Francis in a dark side room of a remote rural church, Pranzo will take you there. If your dream is to be married in Italy, Pranzo has a team in two idyllic regions to tend to every detail. From truffle hunts to hot air balloon rides to guided bike rides to kayaking off the Amalfi Coast, Pranzo had done it all.
“We strive to work with the best local people in Italy. With our concierge approach, our guides greet you on arrival and support you throughout your stay,’” says Tony. “Our goal is for you to travel with confidence in exploring intriguing back alleys and discovering secrets that only the locals know, like schiacciata con l’uva.”
Back in Florence, Tony finishes his pastry and takes one last look around the Florentine piazza. He didn’t realize it but nearly an hour had slipped away since he sat down. But for Tony time isn’t a concern because he was taking in an authentic experience. It was about experiencing Florence the way it was meant to be. Just enjoying a moment in time, savoring it until the last bite.