The Amorico family at Oprah Winfrey’s house
NORTH END – It was not how Angelo Amorico expected to spend most of the Spring of 2020. A resident of Rome for most of his adult life, Amorico stops in Boston as often as possible to see all his friends in the North End. This time, however, the pandemic that knocked the world off its feet forced him to stay in Boston for two months. As founder of Access Italy, one of the premier travel companies in Europe, Amorico has a lot to say about the business of travel and what it is going to take for people to start traveling again. Just a few hours before Amorico boarded a plane back to Italy, we sat down with him for a fresh-brewed espresso and a wide-ranging discussion-that was held at an acceptable distance, of course.
Roman Forum, Rome Italy
Scene North End:
What do you believe is the core essence of travel for people?
In our business it’s all different, but there is a thread that connects everyone we deal with and it is the experience. It is very important to people to be able to have the experience. It makes a difference when you have a relationship, a connection. When our specialists in tourism talk to you about what you like – is it wines or do you like to cook, or do you like the Renaissance or more architecture? Depending on what you like, we will customize your trip, because if you don’t like Roman history, I don’t want to spend two days showing you the Roman history. If you are more into the architecture, especially in Italy, different architecture, we are really a city that you can visit with the different architects.
SNE: How has your business evolved in the four decades since you started it?
AA: I am a lucky man. My sons, Simone and Marco, have worked with me for the last 10 to 13 years and they are really bringing the company to a different level. They are growing it. We all have a different role; I usually train people now. I like to be with people. I like to go with the clients. My son Marco stays in the office most of the time and Simone is the one who goes around the world, talking to the agents. He also meets clients when they come to Rome, he has my characteristics – he is very social.
SNE: How has this pandemic affected your outlook for business?
AA: I think that travel now and for the future is going to favor companies like ours. Mass travel groups and travel is going to become more difficult over the next year, it will have to be more individual for some time. For example, the Vatican and the Sistine chapel, they have about 25,000 people a day, they go there like sardines, you know? Before it was ok, but you cannot do that anymore so they are going to have to adjust to something like small, specialized groups. That is more likely.
Our groups are just family, we don’t have groups of people, we have families. Right now, I am the one who tells my clients if it is safe to come. I had a family that was supposed to fly here in June and I told them don’t come. I think even July is questionable – perhaps they should not come now either. When people go on vacation they do not want to go on the plane and worry, go to the hotel and worry. I think maybe by mid-September or October that will be good.
SNE: Has the experience changed, does it evolve?
AA: People travel differently than they did in the 1980s and ’90s. They like to come in large groups with friends and family to rent villas. We do that in Tuscany, the Amalfi Coast, Lake Como, now Apulia. Four or five years ago people didn’t know what Apulia was, but I was born there. So, I live all my life in Rome and now people discover Apulia. We have lots and lots of Americans – they love to go to Apulia. American people don’t have as much vacation so they just want to relax – it’s important. Ninety-nine percent of our clients are American. Apulia is beautiful and the food is unbelievable, the people are great and finally now we have four, five…six five-star hotels. Everything has to be perfect, because I don’t want them to lose a day for any reason.
SNE: Sounds like your travel company has connections.
AA: We can go to see David, the Vatican, anywhere you want- that’s what we do-the people that we deal with are people with money. They don’t want to stand in line, they don’t want to wait. They want the best restaurant, they want the best table, they want to get in. The Villa d’Estes in Como is one of the best places in the world. I know everybody at this magnificent hotel, which for centuries was residence to the aristocracy. What I love is to sit outside and watch how they serve breakfast – it’s like an orchestra performing. There’s the guy there that’s been there for more than 40 years. He’s the conductor and all the other guys are the instruments. The sounds, they are amazing.
SNE: You’ve been told many times that you should write a book. What would be in it?
AA: The different experiences I have had with my clients. A family from Boston five years ago arrived at the airport and they took me to the side and the husband says ‘Angelo, I have bone cancer and I don’t know how long I am going to live, but I think this is going to be the last trip of my life with my family.’ We spent two weeks in Italy. We started in Rome, we went to Positano then we went to [luxury leather goods maker] Peruzzi Florence, and I left them in Lake Como. When I left them everyone was crying, the father, the mother, the kids, me. So, the concierge of Lake Como, he said to me ‘What happened? Did something go wrong and I said no, no.’ But a lot of people when they leave, we hug, (not anymore!) that’s what it is for me. It’s a gift that I get to do the work that I do.
SNE: Do you have any special clients that you can tell us about?
AA: Oprah is the number one. If you know her you will love her more because she is so good to her people. I was on a cruise with her for two weeks, 10 years ago, she did a big boat – 1,800 people. All the people who worked for her. We were in the Mediterranean on a boat with her and the big people, not the employees, and we stayed two weeks together.
Then one time at Thanksgiving she came and she said ‘Angelo, I am going to tell you who is going to be the next American president. Barak Obama. He’s a lawyer from Chicago, he’s Black.’ I told her she was crazy…and no one knew who he was. A couple of weeks later he became president. Shortly after I went to see her and I told her I had thought she was crazy-she laughed.
Ray Bourque is a good friend of mine. When he came to Italy, I gave him a beautiful tour and he tells a story to everybody. He loves the song ‘Three Times A Lady,’ the Commodores song sung by Lionel Richie. I invite him to my house, we open a couple of bottles of very good wine and I put on the song. We had a good time; he flew to New York at the airport and he hears ‘Three Times A Lady’ – he calls me and says ‘My welcome home!’ He tells that story to everybody.
SNE: Italy is still reeling from being one of the worst places hit by Covid-19. What can you tell us about how the country was affected?
AA: It was the north of Italy that was hit so badly. But Rome and the south, the Amalfi coast, we had only a few. The news said somebody from China went to this city near Milano called Cordone but I think the hospital made a mistake, because they didn’t know what they were dealing with. Because of my business I have met so many people who call me or send me an email, just to know how we feel, how my family is – they are close to Italy, our clients, they love Italy.
Oprah called me as soon as the mess started, Gayle King, former vice president Dan Quayle, Diane Sawyer. Many CEOs of companies like TJX, these people called us to ask how we are doing. That makes me feel really good.
Photo credits-Access Italy