Join us as we sit down with Livio Colapinto, co-owner of Zest of Italy.
Firstly, please introduce who you are and share with us how and why you got involved in food/beverage tourism.
LC: I was born in Torino with Apulian roots, a large family scattered throughout the Italian boot and a great passion for my mother and grandmother’s kitchen. At 8 I cooked my first dish for Nonno Giuseppe and kept pleasing others with food ever since – combing through markets, visiting farms and meeting artisans, cooking for guests and fellow chefs – while discovering cultural masterpieces of Italy. After my engineering studies and some ten years in finance between London, Zurich and Tokyo I studied at Slow Food University, worked and traveled with president Carlo Petrini, and later with Oscar Farinetti as he was working on opening his Eataly market stores around the world.
While still at Slow Food I met my wife Kathrin – a then undergraduate student at the University of Gastronomic Sciences – and while dating we ended up traveling to and visiting wine estate, food shows and happened to guide some prominent chefs very close to the Slow Food community. Kathrin had a lovely experience organising a tour for Alice Waters in Wien and I happened to do the same with Michel Troisgros in Piemonte. After that and in the last 12 years, things went on built naturally, organically following Kathrin’s vision to lead our guests, young and old, professionals and leisure travellers, with the same care we’d apply with relatives visiting us that we had not seen for a long time.
Today our unique expertise and guest management are our most powerful USPs.
Next we would love to know what your company does, its mission, vision, etc.
LC: We design and operate multi-regional tours across Italy, moving slowly through a landscape, rubbing shoulders with real people who are wonderful in their fields and never depending on the branded glitz to make our guest’s trip a memorable experience.
We provide individuals, professionals and organizations with travel solutions tailored to the most unique and diverse needs. We customize travel design across Italy, lifestyle & private tours, culinary study trips for importers, cooks and sommeliers. All aimed at building ties and experiences to help them gain the best out of their time in Italy.
We are sure that you have many, but if you had to choose just one, what would be your favorite food/beverage travel experience?
LC: Yes we have many, and we’d never be able to choose one. Italy for us it’s like a vast playground where we meet and play with hundreds of food artisans, cooks, hosts. While we spend some time together we learn about their struggles, they personal challenges, we share ours, and we always find ways to look ahead with positivity. When we leave – always with a hug and an “arrivederci”, see you soon – we feel like we have been together for ever and whenever we come back it’s like time has stopped in between our last visit.
Bakers in historic old-town centre of Puglia or in the eternal Rome, vignerons in both the most remote and prime wine appellations, Michelin starred chefs and local cooks, small scale organic farmers and food company owners… this is the world of Zest of Italy. A world of real artisans that we respect, promote, encourage, support and celebrate with our travels and our travellers.
Finally we would like to look ahead towards the future. Our industry is growing and changing quickly, from your experience and perspective can you predict any food & beverage travel trends for the future?
LC: We strongly believe in cycles and, within a cycle, in moment of consolidation after new trends are implemented. 15 years ago food tourism was known to few and this rapidly evolved to become, today, one of the main – if not the main – trending sector of the travel industry.
Today we are about to reach the pick in terms of awareness and market scope, and the next 10 years will see further consolidation of the industry. What will happen, and already started to, in this period of consolidation will be a wave of spin-off from this sector towards more specific and peculiar chapters. This is the praxis in the natural life cycle of a product and food tourism, as a commodity product, will face the same stages. So food tourism will develop and diversify its offer.
This will occur by gaining new markets both horizontally, or laterally, entering in other tourism categories – i.e. food & sport tourism, food & health tourism, food & adventure tourism, food & senior tourism, etc… – but also vertically with food tourism becoming increasingly important at different levels of the tourism chain with new stakeholders involved – i.e. food tourism editing and publishing, food tourism communication agencies, food tourism DMCs, food tourism in the transport business, food tourism in technology, etc…