Italy Beyond the Obvious

Italy Beyond the Obvious started in August of 2008, when friends of friends told me they’d be happy to pay for a trip planning service. As soon as you work as a tour leader in Italy, everyone wants advice. So I’d been planning trips to Italy for friends and family since about the mid-1990′s , and until August of 2008 I wasn’t charging for them. But when I started spending time getting to know my travelers in order to make good recommendations, I realized that it was much more time-consuming compared to doing it for friends I already knew well. People said they’d be happy to pay for such a valuable service and thus Italy Beyond the Obvious was born. I have had more work than I can handle ever since.

From Owner Madeline Jhawar….

I grew up mainly in Edmonton, Canada, but spent about 5 years living in Italy.

I have also lived in Brussels, Stockholm, Milan, Vancouver, New York, Boston, Chicago, and San Francisco. I have a Linguistics degree from Queen’s University, Canada and spent 8 years at Arrow Electronics in international operations.  My husband is British-Indian and we have 2 kids (who describe themselves as “half British, half Indian, half Canadian and half American.”).

Italy and I go back a couple decades. I visited Italy for the first time as an exchange student for a year after high school. It was a tough year and it was a fantastic year. I learned to speak Italian so well that when I started University back in Canada, I finished all the Italian courses in my first year and then worked as an Italian teaching assistant at the University for the remaining 3 years of my degree.

Tour Guide in Italy

After graduation, I got a job with the hiking and biking company, Butterfield & Robinson, and led travelers on week-long biking and hiking tours in Tuscany, the Veneto, Parma, Italian Lakes, and the Cinque Terre. To them, my co-guide and I were the face of the company, their translators, van drivers, guides-on-a-bike, luggage haulers, and bike mechanics. I led wine tastings and castle tours and was, in general, problem-solver extraordinaire.

Expatriate Assignment in Milan

While biking in Tuscany, one of the B&R clients offered me a job in international operations at Arrow Electronics. I ended up working for her for over 8 years. After being trained in NY and doing an assignment in Stockholm, I moved back to Italy – to Milan this time. I found an apartment right near Piazza Duomo and worked as Southern European operations manager, for 2.5 years.

Founder of Italy Beyond the Obvious: 2008

After more than 15 years of helping family and friends create Italy vacations, in 2008 I gave some thought to my travel philosophy, my product, my business model, and my fees, and set up a website and business for Italy Beyond the Obvious.


About the Italy Beyond the Obvious Team

The beauty of Italy sells itself, but there is a lot of work involved in putting together an amazing trip!

Here at Italy Beyond the Obvious, our travelers interact with two people: owner Madeline Jhawar, and Claudia Marchesi who works at Italy Beyond the Obvious in Milan. Claudia helps with the behind-the-scenes planning and is the contact person while our platinum travelers are in Italy (when Madeline is asleep in California!). Originally from Milan, Claudia speaks perfect English and has a “how can I help you” customer service attitude.  Platinum travelers sometimes meet Claudia: she’ll take them on a walking tour of Milan, act as an interpreter, or just be in touch via text, email, phone, or What’s App to help in any way that is needed.

Madeline and Claudia

Claudia (left) and Madeline in Milan