“We do not remember days, we remember moments.” This quote by Italian poet, Cesare Pavese embodies the passion of Alessandra Gardino Melchiori Ranghiasci, a.k.a. Ale to her friends in Portland. Alessandra creates compelling moments for her guests during her tours and events at the Ranghiasci Palace (of which she is heiress) in Piazza della Signoria in Gubbio, Italy, a small Umbrian village.
Alessandra was born of noble blood in Genoa, Italy. Her family’s aristocratic line originates via the Papal States. The Papal States were part of the Historic States of Italy (some other named States were; the Kingdom of Naples, the Kingdom of Sicily, & the Kingdom of Sardinia & Corsica). The Papal States were under the strict rule of the Pope from the 700’s until about 1870. After WWII the Italian people voted as per the Italian Referendum of 1946 to establish Italy as a Republic.
“The Monarchy would be no longer,” states Alessandra. “We were allowed to keep our titles and possessions, but the privilege and status that went along with that would be gone.”
Alessandra had many titles in both her maternal and paternal family lines. Due to Italian rules and regulations for the passing on of titles (namely because she is female) she was only able to acquire one- Countess.
Along with the title of Countess, Alessandra acquired one more extraordinary asset. She is heiress to the Ranghiasci Palace. The Ranghiasci Palace is located on Piazza della Signoria in Gubbio, which is a small Umbrian village. Gubbio is considered to be one of Italy’s most well preserved medieval villages.
The walls, ceilings, and stone floors of the Palace date back to the 1300’s, but the facade was built at the beginning of the 1800’s. Marquis Francesco Ranghiasci, who was of prominent status in the history of the family, refurbished the palace’s exterior. Francesco also completely remodeled the interior and designed a large park behind the palace. The park would eventually be granted to the city of Gubbio as Parco Ranghiasci. Francesco also hired famous artisans, painters and decorators to complete the palace, as his goal was to build the ideal setting to showcase the family’s power and influence in central Italy.
Growing up, Alessandra spent summers living in the palace with her Grandparents. She has fond memories of playing in the large gardens with her sister but she felt loneliness too. She would talk to friends and sometimes cousins through the gates but with a highly protective grandfather she could only dream of going outside to play with the other children.
As an adult, Alessandra took a position in the tourism industry and this would eventually bring her to the City of Roses. She makes her home in Portland and spends as much time as possible leading tours and spending time with family and her four-year-old son in her native Italy.
When it was time for Alessandra to take over the care of the Palace in 2003, she had a vision to combine her family heirloom with her love of travel and her intimate knowledge of the land. From this vision came the company M & G Expeditions now known as Customized Journeys. They have now been in existence for over ten years and have offices in Portland, Oregon and Genoa, Italy.
“It was my goal to organize tours with small groups, hosting activities and events in the Palace.” Alessandra professed. “We mostly plan for family groups, and cultural walks with a focus on art, food, and wine. I work with small, sustainable realities. One of my main clients is Sierra Club and most of the people I work with want experiences that are traditional, respectful, and sustainable.”
“There is not a lot of money in that,” she shares, “but there is a lot of passion and a lot of hard work. I don’t want to sell out to mass tourism. It is important to me to keep traditions alive and to be respectful of the land and where I come from and to share this with others. It roots you. It is a good feeling.”
Alessandra hopes for the future of her company that she keeps growing steadily, and sustainably. She doesn’t want to change the character of what she has established.
In the words of Jennifer Trotti O’Brien, former client and now employee, “When you travel with Alessandra you truly get something special. I have traveled a lot in my life, on my own and with other groups, and I can tell you it is different with Alessandra. It is truly a special experience.” Moments remembered.
To learn more about Alessandra, the Ranghiasci Palace, and Customized Journeys (formerly known as M&G Expeditions) please email or call them at, info@ customizedjourneys.com, ph. (503) 715-5583 or visit their website at, www.customizedjourneys.com.