This post was produced in partnership with Stellavision Travel.
A global pandemic may be unlikely time to launch a travel company, but given our reaffirmed desire for a sense of community and discovery, it might just be the best time. Stellavision Travel, a new experiential travel company created by our friend Zoe Shapiro offers thoughtful journeys in southern Italy for culturally-curious women who want to see Italy differently. Secret Southern Italy takes travelers through Rome, Campania, Basilicata and Puglia during 2 all-inclusive small group trips in 2021: September 4-11 and September 11-18 (with more tours and routes to come!).
The Italy Edit caught up with Zoe to learn more about Stellavision, inclusive travel and some of the unique experiences the company offers to intrepid female travelers.
What motivated you to launch a travel company in Italy?
I’ve always been a passionate traveler and Italy captured my imagination from a young age. I’ve traveled extensively in the country since moving here in 2019 but I always felt like something was missing: an experience created specifically for women who love to travel in a modern, authentic and culturally-curious style. Italy is full of historical sites and famous cities but anyone can visit those. I wanted to create a company that was focused on community building, inclusivity and behind-the-scenes Italy.
Stellavision combines luxe experiences with informal activities and takes female travelers along lesser-known routes to introduce them to some of my favorite locals they’d struggle to meet if they were traveling on own.
These have been difficult years for the travel industry. Why did you decide to launch Stellavision during a pandemic?
The pandemic has reframed how we think about travel – and I hope it urges my fellow solo, female travelers to experience their bucket list destinations. I hope I don’t ever hear again, “I’m saving Italy for my honeymoon“. You should absolutely return to Italy with your partner if that’s your desire, but this country is much more than a romantic destination. Italy offers so much to explore.
At Stellavision there’s a crew of like-minded women that offer you a balance of independent yet social travel. Our small groups of 8-10 people are intimate, nimble and share travel values. No packed tour buses with us. It’s a have your cake and eat it too opportunity for solo travelers while we take care of all the details for added comfort.
How did you apply your life and work experiences to create Stellavision?
Stellavision Travel is definitely a fusion of my career and my lifestyle. My professional background is as a marketer – specifically for hotel, hospitality and lifestyle brands. So I’ve always had an eye for what makes someone a great host or what makes a trip memorable. That experience has been invaluable as we’ve selected our partners and destinations throughout Italy.
But the absolute favorite part of my job has always been creating dynamic experiential activations. How do we take a brand experience over and above client expectations? Where are the moments of surprise and delight? What small, meaningful details or personal touches can we highlight? Applying those concepts to Stellavision has been a joy. I can’t wait for our travelers to experience unique moments and opportunities that other travel companies don’t offer.
We hear a lot about experiential travel these days. Can you tell me more about what it means to you?
I think modern travelers feel pressure to be well-researched. You don’t want to miss THE spot or try THAT local delicacy. Stellavision takes the legwork out of travel planning. We curate incredible activities that you can’t Google, and we take you to underground cocktail bars, unmarked beaches and food artisans you haven’t heard of. Everyone has seen countless photos of Italy on Instagram so we’ve worked hard to create super special experiences that will be unique to you and your trip. Anyone with a geotag can make a reservation, but we offer experiential perks that are not widely available.
What’s something special you’ve included in your itinerary?
We’re hosting a private dinner party in Rome in the secret garden of a chic, female-run restaurant and we’ve invited friends of Stellavision to join us for dinner. These are inspiring women who live and work in Rome in all sorts of creative professions. We wanted our travelers to have the opportunity to befriend, network or chat with queste donne italiane who are at the fore of Italy’s travel, food, fashion and design scene.
A professional photographer accompanies travelers on each trip, too. If you’re someone who likes to post to social media in real time, you’ll receive an album of stunning photos each day of your trip – what you saw, what you ate, what you experienced – of you and your fellow travelers. And if you prefer to unplug, you’ll still have incredible photos from your holiday when you return home.
We love southern Italy and are excited you launched in this region. What prompted this choice?
There is so much more diversity to Italy than most people realize, and for regions like Puglia, it can be tricky to know where to stay – or where to start! We are here to bridge that gap for women who are excited to explore lesser known routes in il Bel Paese.
Secret Southern Italy includes a visit to Matera, a prehistoric cave city. We will be sleeping in hotels that are in the middle of olive groves and will visit Gargano, which is one of the most overlooked coastlines in Italy. Most Italians haven’t even been here, but our travelers will be swimming in secret coves only accessible by boat. Stellavision Travel is about giving you unique access you’d never get traveling solo, and that is very true of the Secret South. So we made it our very first tour!
Tell us a little bit about the importance of inclusivity and why this is a focal part of your travel company.
I was mercilessly teased in the 3rd grade for being an outspoken little feminist… these values have been with me for a long time. The world has evolved a lot in the last 20 years but we are unfortunately far from equity and safety for all self-identifying women. Women experience certain barriers and concerns when they travel, especially when traveling alone, so I wanted to create an inclusive, body-positive a safe opportunity for female travelers in a country I love.
Collaborating with intelligent and creative women is one of my great joys so I was eager to include some of Italy’s leading female vintners, tour guides and restaurateurs on this tour. I also think it’s an unusual and wonderful way to view travel opportunities – to put clients in the paths of the women like those they’d know, meet, network with and befriend back home. What a rich way to experience travel, through the eyes of someone you’d be friends with in your hometown.