Podcast Episode #5: Steve Perillo on How Travel to Italy Has Changed

If you lived in or grew up in NY/NJ or CT in the past 40 or 50 years then the name Perillo needs no explanation. Mario Perillo and his groundbreaking commercials for his Italian tours made him more famous than the Pope in some homes! His son Steve has carried  Perillo Tours. forward. Host Kathy McCabe sits down with Steve for an all encompassing conversation on how travel to Italy has changed, Steve’s secret talent.

Sponsors:

Thanks to our sponsors Fruits&Passion CUCINA (Save 15% at fruitsandpassion.com with the promo code DREAMOFITALY15) and to Medjet (Save on multi-year memberships at medjet.com/dreamofitaly).

Transcript with Show Notes Embedded:

Kathy McCabe: So you have people who’ve met, and love stories, and friendships, and everything through Perillo Tours.

Steve Perillo: I think it’s thousands. I think it’s a thousand marriages.

Kathy: How many people have gone on your tours?

Steve: Then the children, imagine the children who didn’t exist were it not for Perillo Tours.

Kathy: Kind of amazing, you’re

Steve: If you multiply that, it’s probably 10,000 people who are alive today because of Perillo Tours.

Kathy: I had no idea! I think that’s your whole new marketing campaign!

Steve: No kidding.

Kathy: This is Kathy McCabe. Welcome to the Dream of Italy Podcast. You know me from the PBS travel series, Dream of Italy. And the award-winning website and publication. Join me as we explore the sights and sound of Bell’Italia. From the canals of Venice to the piazzas of Puglia. From the fashion houses of Milan– Ciao Bella! … to the vineyards of Tuscany. Hop on! It’s going to be a great ride. Andiamo.

Kathy: First, some words from our podcast sponsors.

Inspired by Italy, Fruits & Passion Cucina‘s olive oil based dish soaps, hand soaps, lotions and kitchen mists have been elevating kitchens for nearly three decades. Save 15% at fruitsandpassion.com with the promo code: DREAMOFITALY15

Medjet. While travel should always be dreamy, sometimes it is not. That’s when it pays to be a Medjet member like me. If you’re sick or injured, and hospitalized more than 150 miles from home, domestic or international, Medjet gets you home to the hospital of your choice. Something many travel insurance polices don’t offer. Get your own Medjet membership at medjet.com/dreamofitaly.

[00:01:52]

Kathy: I’m Kathy McCabe, the host of the Dream of Italy Podcast. If you grew up in New Jersey or the tristate area like I did, Steve Perillo of Perillo Tours needs no introduction. To me and many of us, his father Mario Perillo was practically more famous than the pope. That’s because he was on our TVs all the time selling the Italy tours his own father practically invented. “I’m Mario Perillo for Perillo Tours,” I can still hear it now. Steve has continued with the tradition of the TV commercials, and innovating in travel to Italy, into the 21st century. I’m not sure if this is true but I bet it is, more Americans have probably traveled to Italy with Perillo than any other way. When he’s not running Perillo Tours, Steve spends his time as an accomplished composer, something most people probably don’t know. Welcome, Steve.

Steve: “Hi, I’m Mario Perillo for Perillo Tours.”

Kathy: How many times did you hear that?

Steve: “I’m Mario.” What was the second line after that? “I’ve sailed the seven seas to find the best cruise line. The Costa Riviera, where you get an all-inclusive tour cruise …” We took cruises for years.

Kathy: I remember the Costa. Now that you’re saying it, I remember hearing that. And you guys flew with Pan Am all the time.

Steve: We were Pan Am’s largest customer. We bought the most seats from 1985 to 1995, till the end. That was the original American airline, Pan Am, and they went-

Kathy: Iconic.

Steve: Yeah. They started the first commercial service, and that’s why their airlines are still called clippers. Clippers are ships, and the first Pan Am airplanes were air boats, sea planes, where they land and take off on the water.

Kathy: That’s right!

Steve: Where they did the Caribbean and Cuba. Not only that, Kathy, when you see a captain on a plane, he’s called a captain and he’s wearing a naval uniform. You didn’t know that. Nobody knows that

Kathy: That’s why I come to you Steve.

Steve: Yeah.

Kathy: I never know what you’re going to tell me.

Steve: Tell the captain, “I know you’re wearing a naval uniform. Did you know? Do you know why, captain?”

Kathy: Well a captain of a ship.

Steve: Yeah, because the first airlines, it started with Pan Am, were flying boats. Clipper, like clipper ship.

Kathy: Yeah.

Steve: It’s amazing. But the best thing is women pilots, because I feel safe … I think it’s much harder for them to achieve that status, so they do a lot more work than men.

Kathy: So they have to be …

Steve: Yeah, I trust.

Kathy: So when you see a woman in the cockpit-

Steve: I have much more confidence in a woman pilot.

Kathy: How interesting.

Steve: I don’t see many of them though. But it’s always wonderful.

[00:04:46]

Kathy: Very cool. So how did Perillo, how did your family get into this?

Steve: My grandfather had a law degree from Naples University, so he came over first in 24, and I have a whole stack of letters he wrote to my grandmother that I could show you some time.

Kathy: Oh my gosh.

Steve: I just see her side of the conversation. I don’t see his side of it. She’s always saying “When are you coming over, why aren’t you coming over, do you have a girlfriend over there”. No, “Why aren’t you inviting us to come to New York,” that’s what it is.

Kathy: Right!

Steve: He’s in Brooklyn, he’s got is bank job at Bank of America, which was started by Italians in San Francisco, and she kept saying, “Do you have a girlfriend over there? Why aren’t you inviting …” He just kept saying, “I’m not ready, I don’t have enough money for the kids.” Because my uncle Elia was born there. And finally four years later, I don’t know what he did for those four years in Brooklyn, but he invited her over around 1926, and then he worked with the bank, then there was a war, and then 1945, May, the war ended that week, the war ended, and he started Joseph Perillo and sons in May 1945.

It was in the Bronx by Arthur Avenue, and he was educated, eh knew English, he knew Italian, so all the new immigrants from Italy could use his services. Because after the war there was a bunch of people who immigrated here, they just left their land behind, so they wanted to sell their land back in Italy. Also send money back to their relatives in Italy. We had this deal, for 25 cents you could send five pounds of flour. I still have the sign.

Kathy: Oh my gosh, I didn’t realize-

Steve: You could send five pounds of flour four, I don’t know if it was 25 cents, it had to be a little bit more, which was needed in the ’45, ’46, ’47, that time period.

Kathy: Things were rough.

Steve: Yeah. Especially the legal dealings and that kind of stuff. That actually led to cruising, because that’s the way you went to Europe on the cruise ships. It was seven or eight days, I guess, to cross. So then Americans wanted to visit Italy, and it was very slowly … Tourism on a large scale was new. For the …

Kathy: The average person.

Steve: Average person, yeah.

Kathy: Because of course there was the Grand Tour.

Steve: For rich people they had the Grand Tour. The British people had that. Americans, if you went to Harvard, at the end of your education your parents would send you on the Grand Tour. That was, do you know about that? Along six weeks, or six months, it was a long time.

Kathy: Yeah.

Steve: There was a lot of books and memoirs written about … They’re really interesting, to see

[00:07:49]

Kathy: The poets, and the upper class, and they would want to see the ancient ruins and Pompeii, and the art and museums. But that was obviously a very, the 1% took that.

Steve: Yeah, that was the 1% at the time. Even in the last 25 years we have suffered through this thing called the single room in Italy. The single room was literally a single room, and it was like a shoebox size, and they only did away with them like 10 years ago, a single room, because they were for your coach driver, horse and buggy driver. He would get the single room and then you would get the double. The hotel still had the little shoebox rooms up until … Their customers would complain up until that time about the shoebox size room, because in America everybody gets the double room.

Kathy: Huge! And you get double beds.

Steve: Because they’re new hotels, they have made all the rooms the same size. But in those days there was a single room and a double room. The single room was … And a small cot. But that’s how things … The old days are just a few years ago.

Kathy: What was the key to his success?

Steve: My grandfather, he did a good job. He mainly instilled a good work ethic. They all went to law school, my father and his brothers, they all went to law school. Except one, the oldest, rebelled because of pressure.

Kathy: There’s always one.

Steve: And he went to Alaska and never came back, ever. I had to go up and see him at the end of his life in the 90s. He was a logger and a salmon fisherman.

Kathy: How interesting.

Steve: He didn’t go to law school. But Mario, my father, Joe, his brother, a law professor at Florida, he just passed away last year. And my other uncle Bob, they were all in the Joseph Perillo and Sons travel agency from 1945 to … Well they joined in the 50s. To ’65, then my father bought out his brothers and he started something called Wholesale Travel, where you buy big blocks of seats and motor coaches, and you sell it through travel agents, the retailers, and you have tours. He really started these bus tours.

Kathy: So they were escorted from the beginning, where you had a guide and they showed you …

Steve: Yeah.

[00:10:26]

Kathy: And he was really one of the first, or the first, to do it?

Steve: No, there were other tours. Tauck Tours started in the 20s, and he did bus tours domestically in New England. His father and him would do … I’m talking about another company, but it’s really interesting. He was a traveling salesman, and he would go to New England in the fall, and it was so gorgeous, he said “I’m traveling to all these cities, it’s beautiful, thinking why don’t I bring a bunch of people along in a larger vehicle, and charge them to pay for my way as I sell …” Whatever he was selling. So that’s how they started. But we were all alone in the Italy tour market. What do you call the first person advantage?

Kathy: First to market, something like that?

Steve: Yeah, first to market advantage.

Kathy: So was it mostly Italian Americans going, or Americans?

Steve: Everyone. I’m not sure, I think it was mainly more clientele in, northeast is Italian, Jewish, and Irish, and combinations, all intermarried.

Kathy: Yeah, they all intermarried.

Steve: But that’s the makeup of New York City and the New York City area.

Kathy: Yeah.

Steve: He got really big really fast. I’m talking about three 747s a week.

Kathy: Oh my God!

Steve: 747s filled. That’s like 1,500 people a week. 500, 500, 500.

Kathy: Wow.

Steve: And everyone would travel together, it’d be 55 people, the bus would be … I don’t even think it was air conditioned. They put the luggage on the top, put straps, the hotels weren’t air conditioned. But it was really cheap, it was $800 for two weeks, including air fare.

Kathy: So it made it accessible to the masses.

Steve: Yeah. So he sold thousands and thousands and thousands … And then the competitors started getting wind of what was going on, and you lose your advantage, then you have to think of something new.

[00:12:27]

Kathy: When did the TV commercials start?

Steve: My grandfather started radio in the 50s. I had recordings.

Kathy: Really, I didn’t realize that.

Steve: That’s when we had the slogan, “Qui Viaggi con Perillo, viaggi tranquillo.”

Kathy: Which means?

Steve: When you travel with Perillo you travel tranquilly. And it really worked out. Then TV, I guess we started locally in the early 80s, and TV still really worked, and we’re still on television and it still works, even though the audiences are so splintered to all kinds of media, and DVR, and nobody watches commercials. But it’s enough that it works, and television is kind of, automatically, you’re on television, you must be a little bit reliable if you can afford to be on TV, so it gives you like a … You’re on TV, see.

Kathy: A boost. Yeah, and you’re one of our sponsors.

Steve: And I’m one of your sponsors.

Kathy: So TV works.

Steve: TV puts you in a different …

Kathy: It does.

Steve: Still the main, where people gather. It’s what we all have in common, is television.

Kathy: And even as a sponsor of PBS. PBS has a certain prestige over other stations as well.

Steve: Yeah.

Kathy: So there’s a big trust factor, and we only have the messages before and after every episode, so people pay attention.

Steve: Is that all PBS? And they don’t interrupt, do they?

Kathy: Yeah, they don’t interrupt anything. So it’s a little bit different, but if you read all the studies and the marketing information, people pay more attention to PBS, and they’re more likely to buy from PBS sponsors because of that trust factor. So what you said is probably right, TV gives you an advantage, and then being on certain channels and certain places, certain radio shows too.

Steve: Yeah. Ken Burns won’t leave … Ken burns has been invited by HBO, obviously, by everyone, to come on, but he doesn’t want anyone messing with his product at all. He doesn’t want one word out editing this or changing that.

Kathy: So yes, they don’t …

Steve: So he stays, isn’t that right, PBS don’t mess-

Kathy: They don’t interfere with what they do editorially. Everything is separated of course, the sponsors don’t influence the content or vice versa, and it’s a great way to get the message out, or to do your work. Because nobody’s fooling with it. Nobody’s coming back and giving you notes and making you change things. Things like that.

[00:14:56]

Steve: Yeah. So we still do the TV, and more online though, for advertising.

Kathy: That’s the big thing, right, with travel?

Steve: Because when somebody searches for a trip, you want to be there, and you have to pay to be there.

Kathy: Is that the biggest change in the last 10 years, is the internet?

Steve: Yeah. But there’s a difference between that … I don’t know if your audience is that interested in the details of marketing, but it is interesting.

Kathy: I’ve been curious about how travelers have changed.

Steve: Yeah, the travelers themselves.

Kathy: Yeah.

Steve: But just to finish, the internet, if you’re searching for something, we’re going to be there, but TV is different. You’re not searching for us, it’s like report-

Kathy: Giving you the idea.

Steve:  Yeah, we give you the idea, and you have to have that too.

Kathy: What about, I said in the introduction, I remember watching your dad, watching you, on TV, and then of course I grew up in New Jersey, we always got your brochures, these beautiful brochures. I’m assuming, I know you still send them, that that’s still a really effective way.

Steve: That’s another secret in advertising. The US post office charges, let’s say, a dollar to send a brochure. FedEx or ups would charge $18 for the same thing. So you understand what’s going on there.

Kathy: Yeah.

Steve: It’s being financed by, they say it’s not financed by taxes. That’s not how the US government is supporting this thing.

Kathy: It’s coming somewhere.

Steve: So it’s very cheap advertising that’s being financed by the government, instead of, if we had to pay UPS it would be over. If we had to pay $18, could you imagine?

[00:16:31]

Kathy: How many brochures do you send out?

Steve: A few million every year.

Kathy: Wow.

Steve: Well 500,000 brochures, but then we send mailers and teasers and things like that. But they’re the most powerful way of advertising still, and I tell you the cost benefit is amazing with the US post office. It’s better than email, because email, people are inundated.

Kathy: It can just get lost. It can get lost. Email is good if somebody, they have to open it.

If they open it then you have to have some snazzy subject lines.

Steve: I guess the hard copy in your mailbox, you could throw it right in the garbage …

Kathy: I think we’re getting less hard mail. So when I get something, I-

Steve: Does that arrive, junk mail?

Kathy: I think I get less mail than I used to, so if I have something in my mail I notice it. I’m at least looking at the front of it.

Steve: As a woman, remember they would supply catalogs, they’d get thousands of them in junk mail. Of apparel?

Kathy: Yeah, I probably got on some list and got rid of some of those catalogs. But I notice when I get something.

Steve: Because I don’t get it, but I’m a single guy, I don’t get that much mail. I don’t even check my mailbox. I check it once every two weeks. Can you imagine?

Kathy: You should be okay. What if you get some, “You’ve won Publisher’s Clearing House”? Actually they come to the door, so you should be … I don’t know.

Steve: That’s not for real. Ed McMahon is not with us any more.

Kathy: But he’s another big effective TV guy. I don’t know any Publisher’s Clearing House winners …

Steve: That had to do with magazine subscriptions.

Kathy: Subscriptions, and then you have to send things back in.

Steve: So you subscribed to Time Magazine and you-

Kathy: I doubt there’s a requirement. They’re not supposed to require you buy something, so I’m not really sure. I think you probably get some bonus, something bonus, if you do. But another effective TV advertising campaign.

Steve: Yeah, and sweepstakes still work. But the main thing is to have a good product at a good price, and if you don’t advertise you don’t exist.

[00:18:35]

Kathy: True. How have your tours changed?

Steve: They’ve become higher and higher. The price has not gotten … It’s gone up more than inflation, but the quality has improved over the years, just because of the sophistication of the traveler.

Kathy: Very sophisticated, so better hotels?

Steve: Yeah. Everyone’s been to Europe probably already. When we were starting in the 70s with the tours it was their first trip to Europe … Well actually, what’s the rate of passports in the United States? Is it still 35%, 30%?

Kathy: I was going to say about 35% the last time.

Steve: Could you imagine? So 65% of Americans still don’t have a passport.

Kathy: What if they did?

Steve: You need it now for Canada, you need it for Mexico, when you didn’t. Your driver’s license got you into the Caribbean, but you need passport for all of them now, and it’s still 35%. So the vastness of the potential market is unbelievable.

Kathy : What else do these travelers want on your tours?

Steve: The hotels have to improve. Centrally located is very important, that’s a distinction among tours.

Kathy: So everyone can walk?

Steve: So you can walk out your door and you’re right in the center of town. It really really helps. It’s so nice to be able to do that. Then, there’s no more single room, everyone gets a double sized room, a large room.

Kathy: Continental breakfast, right?

Steve: Continental breakfast was … It had to be more than coffee and a crust of bread. A croissant. What was the third thing? Was there orange juice?

Kathy: Juice, some kind of pastry, or cake. They like cake for breakfast, and then a coffee.

Steve: Then the next meal was the big meal of the day, at 1:30. They must have been starving, Italians.

Kathy: You would think so.

Steve: And then dinner, or lunch, lighter.

Kathy: Little lighter, yeah.

Steve: And that’s why I think sleeping after lunch is a great idea.

Kathy: It sounds good. We just had lunch before we recorded this.

Steve: Yeah, that’s why I’m missing my nap.

Kathy: I’m so sorry.

Steve: I may be dreaming this.

Kathy: I’m sorry. You’re doing just fine.

Steve: Then the food had to improve too. Especially choice.

Kathy: Is there ever really bad food in Italy? Yeah, choices.

Steve: Yeah, a big group, 50 people, 100 people, the waiters come from the Hinterland and they’re throwing the dishes around, in the old days, and we were paying $10 for a dinner with wine. It was so cheap, the value was unbelievable.

Kathy: Right.

[00:21:17]

Steve: And there’s nothing wrong with that, it gave people a chance to go to Italy without being rich. You don’t have the best of everything, but you get to travel the world.

Kathy: It opened the world.

Steve: Yeah. So you stay in a less than perfect hotel.

Kathy: Right.

Steve: But in Italy it got ludicrous to not have great food, because that’s …

Kathy: That’s what everyone’s going to talk about.

Steve: Yes, number one and number two, the artwork, the countryside, and the food, and the people. Then a choice of entree, and then the wine has gotten better and better, but wine is still really …

Kathy: Cheaper than soda.

Steve: You can get a two-euro … I’ve seen this in wine stores, two euros, $2.50, and really, really good wine. Local. There’s no distribution cost, there’s no importing costs, there’s no sulfites, so all that stuff is really, really … Not the greatest, but it’s … And smaller groups. People want to stay in smaller groups. Groups still work. It doesn’t sound like you’re going on vacation with strangers.

[00:22:30]

Kathy: Coming up next, Steve explains the dangers of traveling with your spouse. Just kidding, sort of. You’ll see what I mean. But first, a travel tip from the pages of Dream of Italy, the award-winning travel publication I founded in 2002. Did you know the star ratings for Italian hotels are set by the government? They can sometimes be misleading, so don’t pick a hotel based on stars alone. A two or three star hotel might be perfectly lovely, but can’t rate higher because it doesn’t meet certain criteria.

Here are some examples of the guidelines. Four or five star hotels must have personnel that speak at least two languages, and have elevators on every floor, among other criteria. Room service must be offered to qualify for three stars or above. Bar service must be offered for eight hours a day to qualify for two stars, 12 hours for three stars, and 16 hours at four to five star hotels. We’ve reviewed hundreds of hotels in the 170 back issues of Dream of Italy, available online only to Dream of Italy members. Get a free issue and find out more at DreamOfItaly.com/Issue. And now Steve and I continue our conversation.

[00:23:54]

Steve: But then …

Kathy: Something happens?

Steve: But then the alternative, I don’t know how to say this, you’re going to spend two weeks with your spouse alone?

Kathy: Got to really like them.

Steve: How much fun is that? If you’re married, you don’t spend all day and all night all the time with your spouse. You split up all day long. But on vacation, all of a sudden, you’re not used to that.

Kathy: It could become intense.

Steve: I know with families, especially if you’re on an open-ended vacation where, it’s not a tour-

Kathy: Yeah, you get tired of each other.

Steve: There’s a lot of fighting, because everyone wants to do something else. A tour, you’re stuck with the plan.

Kathy: It’s kind of interesting, the dynamics.

Steve: Yeah, you’re stuck with the plan, so there’s no fighting. Either you-

Kathy: You’re on it.

Steve: Yeah. You can stay in the room or do something else, but you paid for it. So it’s a great way to hang out with other people, meet new people, they’re usually like-minded, and you’re guaranteed two couples who will be your friend for the rest of your life, guaranteed, on every tour.

Kathy: How interesting.

Steve: Then all the … We’ve had marriages, and romantic things …

Kathy: I think I’ve heard some stories about that, like people, single mom, single dad, meet on a tour, and it all works out.

Steve: I should …

Kathy: You should do a single!

Steve: Do a study, reach out to our entire mailing list, and say who has met their spouse.

Kathy: Okay yeah, for sure.

Steve: How would I do that?

[00:25:18]

Kathy: Just send an email and say, “We’re looking for great stories, contact us.” See, we’re coming up with marketing ideas right here. Send a picture, people could do their own videos now, so they could send in their video.

Steve: Kathy this is a great idea, just now, this is a great idea!

Kathy: Okay, do it. Do it. That’s the thing, you say email. Email’s really easy though too, so you shoot out an email, and then you have content for life.

Steve: I’ve got to give a little gift.

Kathy: Yeah. A gift card, or like $200 on the next tour.

Steve: Yeah, for your story, your picture, your video.

Kathy: Yeah.

Steve: I’m going to do it.

Kathy: I love it, so you have people who’ve met, and love stories, and friendships and everything, through Perillo Tours.

Steve: I think it’s thousands. I think it’s 1,000 marriages.

Kathy: Wow! Well how many people have gone on your tours?

Steve: And then the children, imagine the children who didn’t exist if it were not for Perillo tours.

Kathy: Kind of amazing, it’s your

Steve: If you multiply that, it’s probably 10,000 people who are alive today because of Perillo tours.

Kathy: I had no idea! I think that’s your whole new marketing campaign!

Steve: No kidding, man.

Kathy: So do you ever go on these tours?

[00:26:26]

Steve: Yeah, I’ll do two things. Sometimes I’ll call a customer. They think it’s a crank phone call. I’ll call a customer in their room before dinner because I know they’re around 6:00 getting ready for dinner. I’ll say, “I’m Steve Perillo, how are you enjoying your tour?” “Who’s this? What?”

Kathy: That’s great.

Steve: Then they go downstairs, they tell everyone about it. Then I’ll just show up at, we have gala parties. We put a couple of groups together, so we’ll have 150 people, and you show up to that, it is really fun.

Kathy: You’re like a rock star.

Steve: Everyone’s having a … Not really. But they have a good time. The tour leader is what makes it.

Kathy: And how do you find these tour leaders? I know some of them have been with you forever.

Steve: Yeah, they do, but there’s a lot of applications. It’s a good job, it’s a good paying job.

Kathy: What’s a key for that tour leader? What kind of personality? They’ve got to be easygoing …

Steve: Yeah, they have to be friendly and a little wacky, but they have to be extremely organized at the same time, so it’s that combination of being fun and sociable, but being extremely organized, and serious about times and the buses really leaving at 8:00, and not kidding about that. Because once you let the group a little-

Kathy: Out of control.

Steve: Yeah, it gets more and more out of control.

Kathy: You’ve lost them.

Steve: So everyone appreciates that. The coaches are fun, you’re way up in the air.

Kathy: They’re high, I’ve seen them.

Steve: Yeah, you’re high up, there’s bathrooms, there’s television, there’s headsets, there’s wifi now …

Kathy: Oh my gosh.

Steve: There’s wifi even in the countryside. It’s not 100%, sometimes it drops out.

Kathy: Right, so people can share their pictures, that’s a big huge way … People are marketing for you and you don’t even know.

Steve: Yeah.

Kathy: They’re sharing their experience.

Steve: Yeah, the Facebook and Twitter, and Instagram.

[00:28:23]

Kathy: So how many times have you been to Italy?

Steve: Hundreds. Or, a few hundred times.

Kathy: Wow.

Steve: But I tend to go for the meetings the same places. I wish I could … I really should spend a month exploring … But I want to do that in America, I haven’t done it around here either.

Kathy: You know what’s really funny for me, I’ve been maybe 40 times to Italy, two or three summers ago I went to the Grand Canyon. I haven’t seen a lot of America. I did a road trip and I loved it, and it was very funny, when I got to the Grand Canyon, I have to tell you, 20% of the tourists were Italians.

Steve: Really?

Kathy: The Italians love the American west. The Italians do this Las Vegas, or San Francisco, Las Vegas, Grand Canyon …

Steve: It’s a western thing.

Kathy: Yeah, they’re sort of obsessed with the American west.

Steve: And they have an eastern version I guess. Really, did you take a car trip?

Kathy: Yes. Actually it’s a very long story. It’s a friend of mine who has an RV.

Steve: That’s what I want to do!

Kathy: It was the best trip ever!

Steve: Did you sleep in it, or did you have to plug in-

Kathy: Yes! It’s like this 70, $80,000 RV. It had multiple TV sets. You get wifi, it’s air conditioned, it’s really nice.

Steve: Who was the driver?

Kathy: A friend of mine.

Steve: He had to be a good driver, he had to

Kathy: He was a very good driver.

Steve: He didn’t tug it with a truck?

Kathy: He tugged his jeep. So then you have the car.

Steve: Oh, you tug your car.

Kathy: Yeah, you have to be really good, because that’s quite a long …

Steve: That’s quite a thing.

[00:29:58]

Kathy: But the thing is, obviously I’m a huge proponent of traveling to Italy and going abroad, but there is so much to see in America, and there’s so many people coming to America.

Steve: But the last part of that, do you have to plug in at night and find a … Where do you sleep?

Kathy: Sometimes RV parks, or sometimes it has enough battery power, sometimes, to …

Steve: Just pull over?

Kathy: Give you a night or two, yeah.

Steve: Once secret everyone knows is Walmart parking lots are always available.

Kathy: 24-7, yeah.

Steve: Yeah, they’re available to all RV people any time, no questions asked.

Kathy: But there’s also this, out in the west it’s BLM land, it’s Bureau of Land Management, and you can basically just camp or park anywhere, in the west.

Steve: And how do you deal with the bathroom?

Kathy: There’s a bathroom in the …

Steve: How do you deal with it though, how do you clean it?

Kathy: I was not in charge of that, so I don’t know. But the funniest thing I was like, this would be so cool to do in Italy, but it’s just different because everything is bigger in America.

Steve: Yeah, it’s too small. There’s jeeps …

Kathy: They would be like super small.

Steve: Well you have the jeeps, so outside of town you park the RV and you get in your jeep.

Kathy: Yeah, you park it and then you can go …

Steve: You can do that. That would work.

Kathy: Go around. I was amazed, though, at how many Italians were at the Grand Canyon.

Steve: We should get into that business.

Kathy: Bringing them here.

Steve: Yeah.

Kathy: Although as much as we like not getting into politics. To get into politics, I think people are scared to come here.

Steve: Yeah, that’ll pass though. That’ll pass, hopefully.

[00:31:21]

Kathy: Yeah. Is there some place in Italy you still really want to go?

Steve: Yeah, I like to spend time in Positano. One of those kind of towns. I consider Portofino and Positano sister towns. They’re like perfect little beach things.

Kathy: They’re so perfect. They’re small.

Steve: With the little houses, like the same kind of idea.

Kathy: Yeah.

Steve: Have you ever spent time in either of those places? Portofino’s the one in the north.

Kathy: Yes, I’ve been to Portofino, I’ve been to Positano, but I feel like I just passed through, or I spent a night or two …

Steve : Yeah, we only spend a couple of nights …

Kathy: But I have a friend who does Italy travel planning. She’s single, and she has her Italian citizenship, she rented an apartment for two months on the Amalfi Coast this summer, in Atrani.

Steve: What town?

Kathy: Atrani. So not one of the-

Steve: That’s by Amalfi? Right next door?

Kathy: Yeah, right by Amalfi.

Steve: Maiori is one.

Kathy: Yeah, and so she’s having the real Italian experience. Instead of just passing through something.

Steve: Yeah.

Kathy: Do you ever go anywhere besides Italy?

Steve: Not really. Well for business I go to … In the fall I was in Iceland.

Kathy: What did you think?

Steve: It’s amazing.

Kathy: I loved Iceland.

Steve: You know the entire population of the country is 300,000 people, that’s a country.

Kathy: Yeah. I know all this trivia about Iceland. They practiced for the moon landing there.

Steve: Oh, that surface, yeah.

Kathy: It’s most like the surface of the moon. It’s the most literate population on earth.

Steve: Really? I could see that.

Kathy: They do a lot of genetic testing there, it’s fairly homogeneous, although there were all these sailors that came in and changed the genetics.

Steve: Yeah, it’s quite a small population to intermarry, but they all speak English.

Kathy: It’s such a cool place.

Steve: Yeah.

Kathy: You can go on Iceland Air and stop in Reykjavik, and it would probably fly on to Italy if people want to try to do that.

Steve: Yep.

[00:33:14]

Kathy: So something I think people don’t know about you, which I think is so interesting, and hopefully we’re going to share some of it, is that you’re a composer.

Steve: Yeah, I’ve slowed down a little. When you get older you dry up a little.

Kathy: You need naps.

Steve: Yeah, you need naps. But I’m going to get back to it after my … This time of year, June, July, we plan for the following year, so it’s a humongous amount of work, getting all the tours and all the prizes, all the literature, all the websites going, and August I’m going to get back into it. I’ll give you something to play, you can edit it in.

Kathy: I’ve listened to some of it, which I love, is-

Steve: Where do you find it?

Kathy: I think I found it on your website, right? Steve.com?

Steve: I’m not sure.

Kathy: This was a few years ago. I plugged it in-

Steve: Oh yeah, a little while ago. Right now-

Kathy: You have some things up there.

Steve: The fact that I have a website called Steve.com is amazing, right?

Kathy: You were an innovator. Did you buy a lot of websites back in the day?

Steve: Yeah, I bought all the Italy ones, I bought ItalyTravel.com, ItalyTours.com …

Kathy: That’s right.

Steve: ItalyVacations.com.

Kathy: Italy Vacations, which was the custom. So I was going to say, Italy Vacations is your custom travel.

Steve: Yeah, we have another division-

Kathy: So are people doing more custom travel now?

Steve: No, people still want the full Perillo experience. But the marketplace for individual customized vacations is larger, of course it’s larger. It takes more work, it’s less profitable because there’s a lot of work involved.

Kathy: Sure.

Steve: But it’s very rewarding to give people the trip of their dreams, exactly the way they want it. And with computers it’s getting faster and easier to book everything together. I used to take weeks and weeks, we used to send airmail first, and then telex to reserve a hotel. It took weeks and weeks, and now it’s instantaneous.

Kathy: Now it’s amazing, it’s instantaneous.

Steve: Yeah.

Kathy: Back to your music, is Italy a big influence? Or partially? Some of your music I’ve listened to-

Steve: Yeah, there’s a whole Italian sound going back hundreds of years. It’s light. There was the German sound, which was heavy and serious, and the Italian sound, which was light and brighter and airier. But I’m half German.

Kathy: That’s right, that’s the secret! Uh-oh, your secret is out. Your secret is out.

Steve: My mother’s name was Funk, F-U-N-K.

Kathy: F-U-N-K, okay.

Steve: Excuse me for saying, yeah.

Kathy: And where in Germany, do you know?

Steve: I don’t know. That was so long ago, it was 1860 they came over. That was a long time.

[00:35:45]

Kathy: Yeah, but you never know. I’ve traced my family, they came over 1890. In Italy, but that’s a big thing, everyone’s going and tracing their families.

Steve: Yep.

Kathy: Very big.

Steve: And the genetic tracing as well.

Kathy: Have you done it?

Steve:
Yeah, but then I’ve come to find out every company gives you a different answer. If you do the three of them, which you should.

Kathy: I tried one, okay.

Steve: But each one is different. 23andMe, I guess.

Kathy: Yeah, that’s the one I did, so I’ll have to see. I’m Irish and Italian, it was pretty on target.

Steve: No surprises?

Kathy: No, I but I know Jews who’ve got native American, so I don’t know what that’s all about. That’s a whole other topic. We’ll see.

Steve: Extremely interesting.

[00:36:28]

Kathy: So I ask everyone at the end of the show, of the podcast, what is your dream of Italy? So if you’re dreaming of Italy, what do you dream about?

Steve: It’s to move there, which I probably am going to do.

Kathy : Oh really, I didn’t know that you wanted to do that.

Steve: For part of the year, yeah.

Kathy: Where? Portofino or Positano?

Steve: No, Tuscany or Umbria.

Kathy: Oh my gosh. I love it.

Steve: Right.

Kathy: Yeah, that’s my dream.

Steve: Is that your dream, is that right?

Kathy : I’d love to live half the year in Italy.

Steve: Yeah. Which half? I haven’t thought …

Kathy: It’s hard, because summer … I love summer though in Italy. I don’t know.

You know what, I just interviewed Frances Mayes, and they spend six months and six months, but they break it up. They do two months, like June, part of July, and then they go back mid-September to mid-November. So they don’t do a full six months, they break it up.

Steve: They’re a couple?

Kathy: Yeah, Frances and her husband, from under the Tuscan sun.

Steve: Where do they go? Tuscany somewhere?

Kathy: Yeah, Bramasole, their famous house.

Steve: Do they rent it out, or part of it or anything, or just their …?

Kathy: No, it’s just their house. That’s the famous one in Cortona that everyone goes by.

Steve: I can go online and see the interior and everything?

Kathy: Oh yeah. I’ll show you.

Steve: Is it palatial?

[00:37:45]

Kathy: It’s pretty nice. She wrote that book, about 22 years ago she wrote the book Under the Tuscan Sun, redid this, and people are still coming to look at the house. Because she was one of the first-

Steve: It’s not in the movie, is it?

Kathy: Yeah, it’s the movie! With Diane Lane.

Steve: Is it the same house in the movie?

Kathy: No, it’s a different actual house. There’s a movie, different movie-

Steve: Is that the one with the bird that crapped on, the bird crapped on his good luck, was that the movie?

Kathy: Yeah.

Steve: Inside, they were fixing it up?

Kathy: Yeah. But here’s the thing, she has a husband, and always had a husband. In real life, but for the movie they made her not have a husband. She had to meet an Italian.

Steve: Where do they live in the States?

Kathy: North Carolina. You have to meet her.

Steve: That’s just like Italy. North Carolina and Tuscany are the same climate.

Kathy: Kind of. She’s southern … You have to meet her. Next time you’re in Tuscany … You and she are probably the most famous people related to Italy, or promoting and involved in Italy.

Steve: Sophia Lauren is still alive.

Kathy: Yes she is, and she owes everything to pasta.

Steve: Get her on your show.

Kathy: I know!

Steve: She’ll come on your show.

Kathy: She was like the grandmother for some cruise ship, and I was like, I’ve got to call her up.

Steve: Yeah, the MSC. Anything helping Italy, she’ll do it.

Kathy: Well she’s been amazing. I’ve seen her house right off the … I don’t know if she’s still-

Steve: Where’s she, Naples?

Kathy: She had a place off of Conca dei Marini in the Amalfi Coast, but I don’t know if she still owns it. But she’s tried and true.

[00:39:13]

Steve: Who else are you going to have on your new podcast?

Kathy: I don’t know. We’re going to do some genealogy, because people are super into tracing their roots. Frances, I already taped a podcast with her, Frances Mayes from Under The Tuscan Sun. We will see who else I can rustle up. There’s lots of good book authors, like Susan, who wrote about women traveling Italy.

Steve: Yeah, she’d be a good one.

Kathy: Everyone has a story. My friend Roseanne does a lot of family travel, and bringing kids, and tips about that there’s a lot.

Steve: You’ll get big names too, you’ll be surprised. You know how you get big names that surprise you. Yeah, you get big names.

Kathy: Yeah, well Francis Ford Coppola, season two.

Steve: No!

Kathy: Yeah, you knew that!

Steve: No, the TV show.

Kathy: Yeah.

Steve: Not the podcast.

Kathy: Well maybe I can call him again.

Steve: No, he’ll do the podcast.

Kathy: We had a good chat. People feel something really strongly about Italy, so we’ll see.

Steve: I know, it’s tough being other countries.

Kathy: No, right, the marketing.

Steve: Belgium is nice. And Germany is nice.

Kathy: I didn’t know you wanted to live in Italy.

Steve: Yeah.

Kathy: I like it. I really like it. So you could probably get citizenship if you wanted it.

Steve: Yeah, but I don’t …

Kathy: You don’t need it.

Steve: I tried, but my grandfather was … When my father was born my grandfather was in South America, a lot of people went to Argentina, so then there’s a loss of something there, because my father was born when he was away, or something like that.

Kathy: You could still try, because when I found out-

Steve: I had a hard time. Did you try?

[00:40:52]

Kathy: Two of our sponsors do this genealogy. I’m trying, and there were two laws that I fell under, that I couldn’t get it, but one of them is, if your mother was born before 1948, for a woman, and that was me. And it’s considered discriminatory, so I could actually go to court in Rome and get it.

Steve: Oh good.

Kathy: Yeah, so even if you think you can’t get it, there’s probably a way.

Steve: Yeah, laws change.

Kathy: They should give you honorary citizenship.

Steve: That’s right.

Kathy: Or maybe the Vatican will.

Steve: That’s right, I should be knighted.

Kathy: Isn’t it like a cavalier or something?

Steve: Yes, the Knights of Malta.

Kathy: I’ll write a letter for you.

Steve: To who?

Kathy : I don’t know, who do you write to? Who’s the president or the prime minister right now, I don’t even know?

Steve: He’s new, he’s that new guy.

Kathy: Well before there’s a new one, I’ll write in. We’ll start a letter writing campaign. All right, well thank you Steve. I’ve had a good time chatting with you.

Steve: Thank you for having me.

Kathy: We’ll talk more some time.

Steve: All right. Maybe I’ll start a podcast.

Kathy: You have to. All right, good job.

For more about Steve and Perillo Tours, visit PerilloTours.com. For show notes on this episode, visit DreamOfItaly.com/5.

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