“Gabriele Salvatores is the ideal artist to preside over the current edition of this festival. His love for our country, his support and his...
This story begins in San Venanzio di Galiera, a small village outside Bologna in Emilia Romagna region. Pietro Navarra - today also known as Mr. Italy - is a 10-year old boy, whose family returned to Italy after living a few years in Nottingham, UK, where he was born. He has grown up watching American movies and dreaming of Los Angeles, but when he looks through his room’s window he sees only farmland. Particularly inspired by The Secret of my Success (1987) and The Concierge (1993), starring Michael J. Fox, Pietro decides to pursue an education and career in the hospitality industry, starting as a receptionist in some of the best hotels in Bologna up to creating his own travel company. And a very special one. Located in the upscale Beverly Hills area since 2008, Pietro’s Italy has become a benchmark in luxury and tailor-made vacations to Italy.
Mr. Navarra, how was Pietro’s Italy born?
Since I was a kid, I have fallen in love with Italy over and over again, traveling all across it and discovering its many treasure in terms of art and culture, food and wine, lifestyle and landscapes. By working in the tourism business for more than 20 years, I had the opportunity to connect with the best providers, from hotels and restaurants to tour guides and chauffeurs, and to see how much the American travelers appreciate our Country.
In 1994, I came to Los Angeles for the first time with a delegation of travel operators from Emilia Romagna, and I found myself right on the set of my beloved movies, I felt the energy of the city and I felt at home. For the following 14 years I kept my dream alive by reading motivational books by Og Mandino and Donald Trump – who was truly a mentor for me - and planning my comeback. Of course leaving Italy, my family, and a secure job was scary, but my passion was stronger and I firmly believed that eventually I would succeed.
Did the U.S. welcome you as expected?
It was actually very hard in the beginning. My sister booked me a shared room in Harlem, New York, as I needed to be on a budget. Barack Obama was running for President at that time, so there was a good vibration. After a while I felt more comfortable and respected as a hard worker finding his way in the land of opportunities. Harlem became my home base to approach travel agencies on the East Coast, and then I visited over 30 States throughout the U.S. to better understand the needs of my target customers before settling in Los Angeles. I introduced myself and my company’s services to thousands of agents, but everybody was turning me down because I didn’t have a portfolio or any references yet. After about 2,500 rejections anybody else would have given up and packed his stuff back to that small village in Italy. Yet I have learned that if you offer something unique and put your heart and soul into your work, sooner or later you will be given a chance to prove your value, especially here in America.
On the ferry to Staten Island, I was talking with my mother over the phone, trying to sound cheerful not to worry her, when a very distinguished man approached me. He was NY mayor Michael Bloomberg, who reminded me of the strong ties between our countries and kindly wished me luck for my endeavor. Inspired by his words, I finally realized that my idea was good but I needed to address a completely different type of clients.
All of your clients are high profile businessmen or members of the entertainment industry with expectations as high as their budgets. What is the key to become their trusted entrance to Italy?
Ordinary itineraries and 3-star services weren’t what I had in mind for Pietro’s Italy, so I searched for travel agencies in the richest zip code areas and offered my first-hand, fresh, and in-depth knowledge of one of their top destinations. Some of them understood the benefit for their business and asked me to organize top-class vacations for their clients, so this is how we started.
Thanks to a 20-year experience and the best team players on site, Pietro’s Italy can design a customized trip around the travelers’ wish list and luxurious standards, but at the same time providing them with a full immersion in the local culture and lifestyle. Every year I personally spend a few months in Italy to check on all the facilities and talk to my contacts, in order to ensure the highest quality standards. And in addition to must-see destinations for our first-time visitors, we also plan unique itineraries or private tours to enjoy the charm of smaller towns, where they can taste the real flavors of our beautiful Country. Imagine dining in the romantic courtyard of Juliet’s house in Verona or celebrating your wedding in an ancient villa… A welcoming and authentic experience is what makes the difference and creates long-lasting memories, which become my best ambassadors.
Since the very beginning you have been inspired by American movies. If your life were a film, which one would it be?
My story reminds me of The Pursuit of Happiness (2006) by Italian director Gabriele Muccino but, unlike Will Smith, I also come from a foreign country. My family in Italy has always supported me, and with the right attitude and the right formula I was able to fulfill my dream, doing what makes me happiest in life.