Select Italy has graced such major publications as the New York Times, Travel and Leisure and the Washington Post, to name a few.
Here at Select Italy, we are proud of the press coverage we've received as the industry's most complete resource on travel to Italy.
Select Croatia, based in Chicago, New York and Shanghai, is also uncorking packages and a la carte wine packages this year, including a seven-night Zinfandel Experience that includes wine tastings, fine dining and guided sightseeing in Dubrovnik, Split, and Korcula.
In addition, the company offers daylong excursions that focus on wine, including the Oysters & Wines of Mali Ston Bay and Magical Dubrovnik package, which features wine pairing on a private island, and the Wines of Dalmatia and Krka Waterfalls program, departing from Split.
Maja Gudelj, a travel and Yacht Charter consultant at Select Croatia, is a fount of information about her native country. We caught up with her while she was leading a family trip in Istria with U.S.-based Virtuoso agents. My favorite site has to be Split; besides the fact that it is beautiful and vibrant, it's also my hometown. Also, Sibenik has been overlooked for a long time because of war damage but now it's being rebuilt and it's a filming site for the new season of Game of Thrones. I believe we will see many more visitors soon.
When it comes to hotels, Villa Dubrovnik is simply stunning with its location, design and impeccable service. Hotel Vestibul Palace connects the new and the old in such a magnificent way. Judita Palace in Split is also set in a historical building, but the period furnishings and stupendous views of the Pjaca square make it extraordinary. Hotel Monte Mulini and Hotel Lone would be top choices in Istria. While Monte Mulini is the top level of luxury with stunning views, a wine vault, and a wonderful spa and beach area, Hotel Lone wins my heart. As the first design hotel in Croatia, everything in it was produced in the country; Jazz Rooms with mini infinity tub-pools add a special touch. Esplanade in Zagreb also has a wonderful story, as it was built for Orient Express passengers.
The number of American tourists is increasing each year, as they love the blend of history, architecture, cuisine and the beautiful sea. The best part is that you can create a vacation for many different tastes: foodies will love truffle hunting in Istria and fresh oyster tasting in Ston; historians will love the abundance of UNESCO World Heritage sites; wine enthusiasts can discover the homeland of Zinfandel, while the sailors claim there is not a better sea in which to sail. Adventure travel is also quite popular and Croatia has plenty to offer.
Select Italy expands its Wine Roads of Italy portfolio by partnering with the Italian wine brand, Allegrini, for a 7-day itinerary.
The Allegrini Experience is a customizable itinerary that immerses travelers in the world of this winemaking family. Starting in Venice with a tour of the city and a private tasting at the deluxe Wine Suite at the five-star Hotel Danieli, guests then continue to Verona to stay in the Allegrini family apartment located across the historical center of Verona, followed by a private tour of Verona and dinner at Antica Bottega del Vino. Travelers also visit the Allegrini's Villa della Torre Estate, as well as Tuscany with a stay at the five-star Castello de Casole, and participate in a 2-day Tuscan adventure that includes a trip to Montalcino's San Polo and Poggio al Tesoro estates.
In addition to the 7-day tour, Select Italy and Allegrini offers as separate components the Winery Visit at Villa della Torre, the Tuscan Winery Visit & Tasting at Sao Polo Estate, and accommodations at the Allegrini apartment in Verona. For more information, call (800) 877-1755 or visit selectitaly.com.
Maja Gudelj - Select Croatia
After joining Select Italy (a MAST and OSSN member) as an intern, Maja Gudelj was able to land a role developing an entirely new brand within the company.
"When I first took the job at Select Italy, Croatia was a small project in the works," says Gudelj. "I was lucky to have a boss at the time, Andrea, the company owner and founder, who let me work on developing it into a full department within the company, expanding our offer into this new destination, and finally turning it into a brand of its own-Select Croatia." By the end of this year, Gudelj expects to double sales for the new brand.
This venture is already winning praise both within Gudelj's agency and outside the company. "Clients positive feedback in general, on Croatia as a whole, makes me very excited about my job and very proud of my heritage," she says. "One of my most valued comments came from a travel writer for whom I organized a vacation in Croatia: 'Our travel consultant, Maja, was terrific. Her depth of knowledge helped us create a custom trip that we will remember as one of our best vacations.' Coming from someone who travels for a living and a travel industry peer, her comment made me feel extra special."
"I have had the pleasure of working with Maja since she transitioned from product development to sales," says Beth Rubin, sales manager, Select Italy.
"She is a rare employee who understands how to listen and not take constructive criticism personally, but rather to use it and learn from it. She blossomed almost immediately and all of the clients that work with her love her. She single-handedly built the Croatia product and used her own time and contacts to produce an excellent product, and launch Select Croatia-one of the few operators specializing in the Croatian market."
Travel + Leisure announced its coveted list of 2014 A-List of Top Travel Specialists, which this year includes 20 new travel agents. Travel + Leisure said the A-List, in its 13th incarnation, was culled from hundreds of agent candidates for a final list of 133. The A-List will appear in the magazine?s September edition, which goes on sale Aug. 22
The process for selecting agents is rigorous, said Amy Farley, Travel + Leisure's news editor and Trip Doctor columnist. First, agents fill out an application that's very detailed. "We evaluate the applications and speak to other people in the industry - and clients whenever possible," she said, adding that Travel + Leisure staff also interview agents and assess their itineraries. "It's a multi-faceted process," Farley said.
For her part, Farley believes that travelers would be well served to use an agent, particularly when they are planning complicated or exotic trips. "A travel advisor can be invaluable," she said, noting that agents offer incredible value through their relationships with consortia and through personal relationships with hoteliers.
"They can actually get you upgrades and value-added moments during your stay," Farley said. "They bring value to the table and make sure your itinerary is seamless."
Increasing numbers of agents are also able to offer travelers inside access to the destinations they visit, Farley said, something that more travelers are interested in. "They will have insights and insiders on the ground in your destination and can really bring places alive."
Lastly, travel agents have their clients' backs when they're traveling, said Farley. "We all saw what happened last winter with flight cancellations," she said. "That's where a travel advisor would step in and sort you out and make sure you get to where you're going and you're vacation isn't ruined."
Italy: Beth Rubin (Select Italy, Chicago)
Select Italy Cruises
Select Italy offers full-day cruises along the Italian coast aboard its 30-foot yacht, the "Romeo and Giulietta." During Select Italy cruises, passengers will visit the Amalfi Coast, Italian seaside cliff towns, ancient Italian cities, the Galli Islands and the bay of Nerano. Most cruises to the Italian coast last about eight hours and feature stops where guests can explore on land or swim in the exclusive Emerald Grotto. With Select Italy cruises, towels, cold drinks and sparkling wines are provided to passengers free of charge. Costs for the grotto swim and meals are extra and not included in the tour prices.
Tuscany is undoubtedly Italy's most famous wine region. Though its reputation was tarnished decades ago by the mass production and exporting of low quality Chianti, Tuscany has rebranded itself as a bastion of quality, turning out some of the nation's most famous red wines, most of which are made from the Sangiovese grape, either on its own or in a blend with other grapes.
The most notable DOC and DOCG appellations include the robust and age worthy Brunello di Montalcino and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, both made from Sangiovese Grosso, a clone of Sangiovese. Chianti and Chianti Classico, which is produced in the wine's original production zone, can be a blend of Sangiovese with up to 20% of select red grapes. Bolgheri wines, popularly known as "Super Tuscans", cropped up in the 1970s. These wines mix Sangiovese with international grapes like Merlot and Cabernet Savignon.
Though dry reds reign in the region, don't overlook Vernaccia di San Gimignano, made from the Vernaccia grape, and Vino Santo, the ubiquitous sweet wine served with dessert and made from white Malvasia and Trebbiano grapes.
Select Italy, which offers guided tours and travel consulting all over the Italian peninsula, places special attention on the Chianti region in Tuscany. They offer full and half-day tours for both small and large groups. Chianti Sud (southern Chianti) delves deep into the history and flavors of Chianti Classico with a stop in the medieval village of Radda in Chianti before visiting the Buondonno Vineyards. After a Tuscan lunch, the tour goes to the Monteraponi estate, followed by a guided tasting. The Chianti Nord (northern Chianti) tour, on the other hand begins in Greve in Chianti, then heads to the Casaloste Vineyards. After a break for a typical Tuscan meal, the tour continues to the Setriolo estate in Castellina in Chianti for a tour and tastings. Select Italy's Chianti Classico tour is a survey of the sub-region, both north and south.
From 116 Euro per person, selectitaly.com
In the hands of an expert, a simple vacation can become a life-changing journey: an unforgettable adventure; a soul-restoring retreat; an education unmatched in any classroom. For our 12th annual look at the best advisers in the business, we asked these travel pros to share their latest discoveries and insider tips from around the world. Wherever your travels take you-from cruising in Antarctica to a walking safari in Zambia-we have the agent for you.
The eight-room Monaci delle Terre Nere, in Sicily, which sits on the slopes of the active Mount Etna volcano. The owner has enormous respect for the environment, and it shows: the lush estate retains a rustic sense of place and is partly fueled by solar energy.
Years as agent: 18.
Other specialty: Croatia.
The afternoon had cooled down to a light chill, a hint of the autumn twilight that was just behind our shoulders as we roamed through Zagreb's pedestrian walkways past 19th century and Baroque buildings, massive in the long shadows across the small parks that dot the Lower Town to the Upper Old Town.
The Huffington Post recently named Croatia among the world's top five honeymoon destinations for 2013. More international hotel companies and tour operators continue to develop travel products to Croatia, many with an eye toward special interests. At the same time, Cruise Ship News named Dubrovnik as a top wedding venue.
Select Italy, a travel agency that often finds itself on Travel and Leisure's A-List and as one of the top agencies in Conde Nast Traveler each year, has veered from its singular staple, Italy to include Croatia with an emphasis
Says Maja Gudelj, one of Select Italy's travel consultants who specializes in her home country, "September and October are quite popular travel months for American travelers, as the main season rush is over, but the weather is still beautiful, and hotel rates are a bit lower, making the trip more affordable."
Fans of Croatia know that the destination has been teetering on the verge of A-list status for a while. Could 2013 be the year?
Looking at last year's numbers, Croatia ranked as the fastest-growing Mediterranean tourism destination, according to the Croatian National Tourist Office in New York. The country saw 12.3 million visitor arrivals and 70.3 million overnight stays, an increase of 5% and 6.4%, respectively, over 2011.
[...] Select Italy, for example, launched SelectCroatia.com at New York Times Travel Show last month, calling it one of the hottest vacation spots in Europe.
"We have been working on the destination for a few years after noting the proximity and the analogies between the two Mediterranean countries, and we finally decided to develop a branch dedicated to Croatia," said Maja Gudelj, Select Croatia travel expert.
The company is offering a range of tours themed around everything from food and wine to culture and history. [...]
The southern Italian region of Puglia is making headlines these days-why? Its scenic coast, historic towns and delicious cuisine are enough to focus attention on this part of Italy any day of the week, but now superstars too have tuned into the many charms of Puglia. Well, at least one superstar: Justin Timberlake has tied the knot with Jessica Biel there. Timberlake, an entertainment powerhouse who has gone from "Star Search" to "Sexyback" and beyond, has finally proven his "travel" star power by selecting Puglia as the setting for his recent wedding.
Puglia, or Apulia in English, is one of Italy's most magical regions. It is the spur of the boot of the Italian landmass, with an intricately chiseled coastline that often creates an island-style feel. The sense of history here is ubiquitous but never oppressive-vying for your attention is an almost staggering range of sites from prehistory to Magna Graecia, and from the Roman Imperial age to the Renaissance and the Italian Baroque after that. Puglia is nearly 7,500 square miles in size and there are almost as many reasons to fall in love with the place.
Bari is the region's capital and its largest city. This port city boasts the longest uninterrupted seaside promenade in Italy, and its historic center, Barivecchia, is a walled wonder that could easily be used as backdrop for a pirate movie. About 100 miles southeast, Lecce has a restored Roman amphitheater and a central district redolent of Baroque splendor. Its archeology museum is a jewel, with collections evocative of the region's ancient Greek heritage.
Continuing on the coast south of Bari you will find Polignano a Mare and its historic clifftop buildings that seem to hover over the water. The shiny village Ostuni is called La Citt? Bianca, or "the White Town," on account of the dense core of whitewashed buildings in its historic hilltop center. Inland is Galatina, which is close to Lecce and a perfectly pleasant southern Italian town with a Romanesque cathedral that dates to 1390. The southeastern stretch of Puglia is called Salento, a sub-peninsula where you'll find enchanting seaside towns like Otranto, Gallipoli and Santa Maria di Leuca.
If you don't think much of ros? wine (rosato in Italian), a trip to Puglia will definitely update your views. Puglia's most representative wines are reds and ros?s, but the region also produces some interesting white wines from local grapes. Distinctive tastes are achieved through time-honored methods of winemaking using Moscato of Trani, Verdeca, Malvasia of Salento, Primitivo, Salice Salentino and Negroamaro grapes. These grapes can be seen growing throughout the region.
Now if the Smurfs were Italian, they might call the village of Alberobello home. This is where you?ll find an abundant inventory of trulli, the most distinctive architectural legacy of Puglia. Coming from the Greek word for cupola, a trullo (singular) is an old stone house with a conical roof built without mortar. Alberobello has so many trulli that it has been inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List, but you'll also find them in the vicinity of Locorotondo in the Itria Valley.
Puglia's Salento coast has a large assortment of great beaches, from the sandy Torre dell'Orso and Porto Cesario, to blissfully blue Marina di Ugento south of Lecce to the rocky, boulder-encrusted Riviera of Otranto and Santa Maria di Leuca with its shimmering Grotta Grande. The latter is where the calm, crystal-clear waters of the Ionian Sea mix with those of the intensely azure Adriatic. Gallipoli on the Ionian Sea, was, according to legend, founded by Idomeneus of Crete.
Back to Timberlake's starry wedding, Italian newspapers reported that the wedding took place at the fabulous seaside resort Borgo Egnazia. The Borgo Egnazia, a five-star hotel surrounded by villas and set among ancient Roman ruins, is located on a scenic yet relatively short stretch of coast between Bari and Brindisi. You can book a stay here through Select Italy, an Italy travel specialist that also recommends the Masseria Torre Coccaro, a historic manor house dating from the 16th century and now a five-star luxury resort surrounded by olive groves and almond trees. Another great hotel option on Puglia's "VIP Coast" is the Masseria Torre Maizza, just up the beach from where Timberlake and Biel had a happy pre-wedding gathering with several of their Hollywood friends. The five-star Masseria Torre Maizza is less than a mile from the beautiful southern Adriatic coast. During the 16th century, the Masseria Torre Maizza served as a watchtower against the invading Ottoman Turks and Saracens. The trulli of Alberobello are nearby.
Start planning your Puglia adventure today ? and who knows, you might even catch sight of Justin and Jessica on a repeat visit to this sunny, new celebrity magnet!
For travel ideas and trip planning, check out these two sites: viaggiareinpuglia.it and selectitaly.com.
[...] Truffle hunting
Watching a dog hunt down a prized truffle is one of the most entertaining of sights, but it's a serious business. If the pooch gobbles down the goods before his handler can grab it, they might lose up to 1,000 bucks in a bite. Most hotels can organize a trip for you to watch the chase, or book a trip with an outfitter such as Truffle Hunter or Select Italy, which offers truffle hunts in its program of activities.[...]