Piero and Katie Pagliardini met in 2006 when Katie was teaching English abroad in Le Marche, a region in Eastern Italy. Katie, a Dallas native, was only supposed to stay for one semester, but after falling in love with Piero and the Italian culture, she ended up staying for four years.
After marrying, the couple moved to Dallas. They lived in Lake Highlands, lived on Edgecove Road, and started a family, but couldn’t help but notice a gap in their lives.
“When we first moved to the states, Piero always wanted to do something that connected his home culture to Dallas,” says Katie.
Piero began importing and distributing wine and truffles from Le Marche. After meeting the famous pastry chef Margaret Braun and having the opportunity to organize a tour for her in Italy, he decided to create a tour service.
He lacked business experience, so he enrolled in a course.
Piero and Katie Pagliardini with family. Family photo courtesy of Dark Horse Photography LLC
“I would like to take the best part of America, which is the business side, and put it together with the best part of Italy, which is the food and the wine,” he says.
In 2015 Pagliardinis launched Italiana Tours. Over the past seven years, Piero and Katie have expanded their tour service, creating immersive food and wine tours that specialize in giving customers the authentic Italian experience right where they first met, Le Marche.
“For the tourists, the people who come here, they can discover the real Italy,” says Piero.
For most people the place is unknown, but for Piero it is his home. He describes it as very similar to Tuscany, without the overwhelming number of tourists.
Food is the heart of the trip. All meals start with starters of local cured meats and cheeses, along with salads and pasta. He says that the second course in Italy is then dedicated to meat, such as slow-cooked veal served with a red wine. For the grand finale, customers are served homemade mascarpone or biscotti for dessert together with a cherry wine.
“Usually we have 11 meals in a week’s trip and my forte is making sure each one is unique with different wine pairings,” says Piero.
When travelers aren’t eating, they’re learning about food—cooking classes with local chefs, wine and olive oil tastings, and in the fall, truffle hunting trips with a local guide and dog.
“Our constant big complaint is that there is too much food on the tours,” jokes Katie.
Visiting historic sights such as the Ducal Palace and The Church of the Dead and excursions to the Metauro River are sprinkled into the itinerary. Le Marche also hosts local festivals, the biggest being the truffle festival in October, which is a favorite with Italiana Tours.
Art and writing workshops are also offered to those interested in finding inspiration in Le Marche. These classes are taught by successful writers and artists, some local to Italy, and run throughout the week, such as writer Jen Knox and artist Mary Whyte.
As the business gained popularity, the Pagliardini family moved back to Le Marche in the past year so they could join the tours, but have kept their headquarters in Lake Highlands.
When asked why they chose to keep the business in Dallas, Piero explained that with most of their customers from the US, it seemed like a good idea to keep it in a familiar location.
“The dream is still alive in Lake Highlands,” says Piero.
The Pagliardinis expressed their gratitude for Dallas and the opportunities it gave them to expand their family and business.
Piero and Katie are always looking for new customers interested in their tours and say they will even include a neighborhood discount for any Lake Highlands resident interested in a tour.
“We’d love to have them join us in October for a creative retreat with author and Dallas local Suzanne Frank,” says Piero.
“It is open to various artists (painters, writers, photographers) of all levels, as well as the non-artists who are just looking to get away and find their inspiration. I hope they can join us in October to restore their soul in Le Marche, on this incomparable culture, food and wine tour!”
For more information about Italiana Tours, visit italianatours.com.