Business e via Italy’s exclusive series of case studies featuring expats starting businesses in Italy. This week – Gusto Wine Tours

 

Thank you to Fiona Tankard for this interview with us at Gusto Wine Tours –

This is a a little snapshot of why we are here and why we do what we do!

 

Gusto Wine Tours in Umbria

 It was just after their wedding in         Falmouth, Cornwall in 2000 that Mark and  Giselle Stafford decided life was too short  to spend on the usual nine-to-five routine.

Neither had a serious career (Mark was  working as a painter and decorator and Giselle in an office) and they didn’t have kids or pets to worry about.

 

They reckoned that if they travelled to mainland Europe it would be relatively easy to return to the UK should a family emergency arise.

Mark took an intensive TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) course in 2001 and then they sold almost all they had, packed their remaining things into a camper van and set off.

‘The plan was to travel around the Mediterranean coast but we only got as far as Italy,’ Giselle explains. ‘We went to a party at a friend’s place near Lake Trasimeno in Umbria and that was that, we fell in love with the place immediately.’

Fortunately, Mark quickly got a teaching job. ‘The contracts for TEFL teaching lasted a year,’ he says. ‘But we soon found out that lots of teachers abandoned their jobs after a term to continue travelling, but we were older and had a sense of responsibility, so we stayed!’

Making the Big Move

Over the next few years the couple lived in two countries, spending winters in Umbria in the camper van and summers in the UK. They had to keep returning to Britain in order to earn enough money to keep going.

They went back full-time for a couple of years for family reasons in 2005 but  missed Umbria so much that they moved there permanently in 2007. By that time, they had sold the camper van and planned to live in a proper house!

Unlike many expats, Giselle and Mark decided to rent. ‘We don’t have any inclination to buy (nor the money!)’ explains Mark. ‘We found a little place to rent within a few days of getting here. It was fine for three years, but it wasn’t ideal. We found our current house quite by chance.’ …..

‘We were looking for places to have lunch and new cantine to visit for our new business Gusto Wine Tours,’ Giselle says, taking up the story. ‘We saw this house, which was just what we were looking for. We got the keys shortly after and Mark decorated it over the next few months. We moved in in August 2010.’

From Teaching to Tours

Their new business was born from necessity. Teaching English wasn’t working out for the couple so in order to stay in the region they loved, they had to think of an alternative. Mark had made friends with quite a lot of cantine owners through teaching them English. This had also kindled his interest in all aspects of wine and wine-making. It wasn’t long before this interest turned into a passion.

In 2009 Giselle and Mark went on a wine tour in California’s Napa Valley and the final piece of the puzzle fell into place.  They would start their own Wine Tour business in Umbria! They launched in 2010.

Considering they started just four years ago, it is amazing how visible the business has become. ‘We were lucky enough to be put onto Trip Advisor by a friend who had come out on a tour with us and that helped us more than any other advertising, including our website,’ Mark says.

‘We’ve had quite a lot of compliments on our website,’ Giselle adds. ‘The first version wasn’t the best it could be, but I did another version on my Macbook Pro. I learnt on the hoof really and try and keep the site up to date!

‘Honestly, I’m not sure how many of our customers actually LOOK at the website,’ laughs Giselle. ‘Nearly all our enquiries come from folks finding us on Trip Advisor’.

‘Without the internet we wouldn’t be where we are now.  We are active on Facebook (and get bookings via the page) and Twitter, we have a blog, the website and Trip Advisor.  We are on the first page of Google organically.  We tried AdWords, but I wasn’t convinced it worked at all for us. ‘

Learning Curve

The couple have mixed feelings about Italian bureaucracy, feeling that at times they got poor advice or none at all when they needed it, so are still in catch-up mode. They have now entered into a friendly working relationship with a local travel agency in Foligno. ‘That keeps the bureaucrats happy!’

Giselle and Mark have lived in Italy full time for almost seven years and admit that it has been a learning curve, sometimes a steep one. ‘It helps to have a good support system. If not family, then friends. We already had some Italian and expat friends here when we moved and we now have a few more.’ says Mark.

When it comes to the Italian language, Giselle tends to let Mark do most of the talking. ‘We speak English at home and as I work from home I don’t have the chance to get out and practise Italian as much as Mark. My school report would read “could do better,” ‘ she confesses.

They feel it’s important to travel home too, usually going back to the UK for a few days a year, with Mark going more often because his 90-year-old father lives on his own. ‘And my mum is very active and usually comes out to see us a few times a year,’ Giselle adds.

Do they miss their home country? ‘I miss my friends and people with the same sense of humour. I don’t really miss the UK,’ Mark says. ‘Sometimes I’d like a less complicated life where the goal posts don’t change constantly, but the good outweighs the bad here, and while that balance keeps up, we’ll continue to live here!’

Advice on Starting a Successful Business

Having been through it themselves, they have some words of wisdom for people wanting to come to Italy and start their own business. ‘Think carefully, because if you don’t ask the right questions, then the answers will not be forthcoming,’ Mark says. ‘We’ve found that no professional advice is given without you asking specifically. This can be enormously frustrating as you may not even KNOW what the right question should be.’

‘There a lot of rules and laws that are simply not the same as the rest of Europe and tax laws are a prime example. If you don’t fit into one of their job boxes, there seems to be no facility to create one. Because you don’t fit, you supposedly can’t do what you want to do because you have no tax code to pay the government!’

‘And think about the kind of business you want to open,’ Giselle says. ‘Is there actually a market for it? What is the market – Italian, expat or international? Remember that many Italians don’t have a lot of ready money and if they do, they choose carefully what they want to spend it on. A product or service from a foreigner might not interest an Italian. In fact, in four years we’ve only had two Italians come on a tour!’

It’s obvious they love what they do.’We live in the countryside, we have a nice house, gardens, a vineyard at the back, a veggie patch, a couple of lovely dogs –  it’s a great lifestyle.’ Giselle says. ‘But if one day Italy and its crazy laws get too much for us, we’ll leave.  We’re here because we want to be and because we have a successful business here. But we are here voluntarily!’

www.gustowinetours.com

gustowinetours@gmail.com

Tel:  0039 3383 298691  (Mark)

Facebook: Gusto – Umbrian Wine Tours

Twitter @gustowinetours

——————

http://www.businesseviaitaly.com

Article by Fiona Tankard, (content writer – content strategist – ghostwriter) email:   fctankard@gmail.com

Copyright © 2014 Business e via Italy – Investment in Italy? Moving to Italy? Business Exchange? | All Rights Reserved.

Advertisements
Posted in Italian Wine, Personal, Umbria & Wine, Umbrian Life | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Cantine Aperte May 26th 2013 … Ground Rules….

As Cantine Aperte is almost upon us (tomorrow folks!!) here’s a little post about the day! And as Willemijn says, concentrate on the less well known cantine – you’ll have a truly authentic local experience that way, in our opinion! Giselle & Mark

GUSTO! Blog

A 'Vine' day for a wine tasting! Umbrian vines .... A ‘Vine’ day for a wine tasting!
Umbrian vines ….

THIS weekend – Always the last weekend of May will be the nationwide Cantine Aperte in Italy …….

This is one day we DON’T work!  We use part of the day to go to new cantine that we usually don’t have time to visit normally in Umbria.   The latter part we go local – so we can get home easily!

So, if you’ve never been, how do you go about it?  I’m here to tell you how!

This is an event for everyone! There’s amazing wine, great food, entertainment galore, picnics in the vineyards, jazz in the barrel rooms … What’s not to like?

There is, in our opinion, one thing not to like, and that’s the more popular cantine are BUSY, really BUSY!  This can be a lot of fun, please don’t misunderstand us! But, consider parking…

View original post 701 more words

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Tasting Sagrantino with Jody Ness of Wine Portfolio & Gusto Wine Tours

A couple of years ago, Jody tries Sagrantino for the first time at Cantina Tabarrini, Montefalco ….

Video | Posted on by | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Gusto Wine Taster Tours

Umbrian Wine Selection

Umbrian Wine Selection

Don’t have the time for a full day tour with us?

TASTER TOURS WITH GUSTO!

Wine tasting in a barrel!

Come out with us for a morning or an afternoon and visit a couple of fabulous local cantine!

We’ll pick you up locally (local to Montefalco, ask us if you’re not sure!) You’ll visit 2 cantine tasting their wines and, as often as not, their local products… You’ll have a full tour of one of the cantine … We’ll drop you off where we picked you up!

From 2 to 8 wine lovers from only €50.00 per person.

*(Except September & October….)*

Posted in Events, Italian Wine, Special Offers, Umbria & Wine, Umbrian Life | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

Venice here we come!

Although we have missed the Carnevale, we can’t wait to get to Venice next week and try some of the local wines of that region!

DSCN1601

While we have never been big fans of fizz, we are keen to have a sip or three of the Prosecco and, the Veneto classic Lambrusco!

Seafood will be high on the agenda and a magnificent fish laden dinner has been booked aboard a galleon ship that will cruise around the lagoons of Venice while we eat.

We will be meeting virtual friends, who, we hope will become real friends after we meet – this is the life force of social media!  Our lives have been enriched by the many many friends we have met this medium … some we have yet to meet face to face, but when we do, you can be sure a glass or three of wine will be drunk!

We are especially looking forward to meeting, at last, Monica Cesarato and going out with her on one of her amazing walking, drinking, eating, chatting tours of Venice … this one is called the Cicchetti tour   . Afterwards, we hope that a few other virtual-soon-to-become-real friends will join us for a glass of wine and a good old-fashioned chinwag!

What are YOUR top tips for visiting Venice for a few days?  We only have 3 full days there…

DSCN1446

Posted in Events, Italian Wine, Personal | Tagged | 10 Comments

A FABULOUS slideshow of Robin Driscoll’s Gusto Wine Tour!

Slideshow by Robin Driscoll/RD Photo Services copyright 2014.  All rights reserved.

In 2013, Robin, a professional photographer with her  own business ‘RD Photo Services’ came out on a wine tour with us ….

I think this slideshow that Robin put together speaks volumes about how much she enjoyed her day with us!

We love the slideshow Robin, and thank you so much for letting us use it!

Posted in Events, Italian Wine, Umbria & Wine | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Looking back, to look forward …. Our Loves and Life in Umbria.

Another quick look at some of the lovely things that happened in 2013!
Here’s to a stupendous 2014 for us all!

GUSTO! Blog

Sometimes all it takes is to flick through past photographs to relive the laughs, the memories, the friendships …… I took a peek at just the past few months .. Here’s what I came up with …..

 

There were, of course so many more photos I could have included, but perhaps there should be a part 2 instead!  

Finally, if you have got this far – if you like our photos, please don’t steal them – if you ask me, I’ll in all likelihood say yes as long as you credit me for it!  😀

 

View original post

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Happy New Year for 2014 from Giselle & Mark – Gusto Wine Tours!

Harvest festival - Montefalco Style

Harvest festival – Montefalco Style

Many exciting things in store for 2014 ….

Take a look at some of the new Gusto ventures!

TASTER TOURS WITH GUSTO!

Wine tasting in a barrel!

Wine tasting in a barrel!

Come out with us for a morning or an afternoon and visit a couple of fabulous local cantine!

We’ll pick you up locally (local to Montefalco, ask us if you’re not sure!)
You’ll visit 2 cantine tasting their wines and, as often as not, their local products…
You’ll have a full tour of one of the cantine …
We’ll drop you off where we picked you up!

From 2 to 8 wine lovers from only €50.00 per person.

Big new venture …

Gusto Wine Tours SHIPPING Service

A small selection of Dionigi wines .....!

A small selection of Dionigi wines …..!

Do you love Umbrian wines?

Do you wish you could find the wines you tried on our tours, or that your friends who have been on our tours keep raving about?

We can help you!

We will ship mixed cases of Umbrian wines to you.*

It starts with something as simple as sending us an email, we will guide you through every step from here!

*Providing shipping of wines is allowed to your area/country.

Then there’s the really big venture that’s coming together very nicely….

Gusto Creative Vacations

Beautiful Umbrian countryside

Beautiful Umbrian countryside

Fancy a week in a beautiful Umbrian villa fulfilling your creative dreams?

Amazing Creative Workshops in the mornings with wonderfully talented instructors and lots of optional excursions in the afternoons –

Do you want to try the fabulous local wines? Meet local artisans, watch them work? Learn new ways to unleash your creativity? See how olive oil is produced from beginning to end? Wander the pretty streets of the little villages of central Umbria?

There will be so many experiences to choose from, or you can relax and kick back in your luxury accommodation!

We will look after you every step of the way!

So there we go … some of the new and exciting Gusto adventures for 2014!

Posted in Events, Italian Wine, Umbria & Wine | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Looking back, to look forward …. Our Loves and Life in Umbria.

Sometimes all it takes is to flick through past photographs to relive the laughs, the memories, the friendships …… I took a peek at just the past few months .. Here’s what I came up with …..

Piano Grande, nr Casteluccio …

Piano Grande, nr Casteluccio …

The poppies were beautiful this year.

The poppies were beautiful this year.

Our views were spectacular at times …

Our views were spectacular at times …

Early morning view from our house.

Early morning view from our house.

Real, local festivals, where the folks turned up by any means necessary!

Real, local festivals, where the folks turned up by any means necessary!

Harvesting our own sour cherries to make jams, liqueurs and other yummy things!

Harvesting our own sour cherries to make jams, liqueurs and other yummy things!

Picking fresh veggies straight out the garden…

Picking fresh veggies straight out the garden…

Enjoying a wonderful bottle of Sagrantino di Montefalco out under our gazebo..

Enjoying a wonderful bottle of Sagrantino di Montefalco out under our gazebo..

The food with friends …

The food with friends …

The food at the festas…

The food at the festas…

The FOOD!  (This is a 'trifle'!)

The FOOD! (This is a ‘trifle’!)

Expect the unexpected…

Expect the unexpected…

The spontaneity of the locals …

The spontaneity of the locals …

The fantastic local wine - The wonderful Montefalco Rosso & Sagrantino di Montefalco…

The fantastic local wine – The wonderful Montefalco Rosso & Sagrantino di Montefalco…

Work is always fun!

Work is always fun!

Don't think of the calories, just enjoy the incredible taste! Guanciale on bruschette ….

Don’t think of the calories, just enjoy the incredible taste! Guanciale on bruschette ….

Fantastic dinners out with friends….

Fantastic dinners out with friends….

Meeting new friends…

Meeting new friends…

And more new friends …

And more new friends …

Enjoying time with old friends …

Enjoying time with old friends …

Always being open to new challenges - like arranging a blessing on a wine tour …

Always being open to new challenges – like arranging a blessing on a wine tour …

The sunflowers … My fav!

The sunflowers … My fav!

Spending time with our beautiful girl - Stella

Spending time with our beautiful girl – Stella

 

Our boy - DJ

Our boy – DJ

We are grateful for all we have! (Cheat photo, this is not in Umbria!)

We are grateful for all we have!
(Cheat photo, this is not in Umbria!)

There were, of course so many more photos I could have included, but perhaps there should be a part 2 instead!  

Finally, if you have got this far – if you like our photos, please don’t steal them – if you ask me, I’ll in all likelihood say yes as long as you credit me for it!  😀

 

Posted in Personal, Umbria & Wine, Umbrian Life | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Life, Montefalco style …

Life is funny sometimes – the longer you stay in one place, the more you can take it for granted.

Then something happens or you see something that brings you right back to why you chose to be in that particular place way back when!

Image

Stella checking to see if the grapes are ready for the vendemmia…

Simple pleasures, walking right near our house with the dogs.  Seeing their joy in running free and discovering new smells and trails, chasing each other, playing … I haven’t captured it on camera yet, but DJ’s greatest pleasure is running and jumping after any flying insect – from a scared little pup, recently thrown out of a moving car, unwanted and dumped, to a joyous happy boy, full of energy and love!

IMG_0261

DJ & Stella racing each other …

The grape vendemmia is almost over for another year – it’s been a difficult one for most wine-makers in Umbria as the grapes need to be dry before they’re picked – after a lovely hot, dry summer and just as the grapes were to be picked, along comes bad weather!  Let’s all keep our fingers crossed for these guys that there will be time to pick the grapes in-between the thunderstorms.

Stormlight at casa di Stafford

Walking through the vines and seeing the grapes reaching their maturity day by day is a small but gratifying pleasure!

They’re ready …. the race is on!

Joining in the bacchanal festa in Montefalco on a beautiful sunny Sunday in September was a real joy …

P1040455

At the harvest festival in Montefalco…

So, wherever you might live, take a moment to REALLY look around you and reignite your love for your home.  It feels good!

 

 

Aside | Posted on by | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment