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.