Meet our Team
Your guides: Jackie and Mick Parsons
We met and fell in love in, and with, Italy in the 1990s. Together we created Hedonistic Hiking back in 2007 and since then the company has gone from strength to strength. Our small group walking holidays are designed by us, researched by us and guided by us. Our hiking tours on both sides of the world combine our three great passions in life: outstanding walking, delicious food and fine wine.
Born and raised in England, I studied languages from an early age and developed a passion for Latin cultures. I speak French, Spanish and fluent Italian. I have led tours in Europe since 1992, specialising in walking tours in Italy since 2000. My first degree in Spanish took me to the mountains of Mexico and to the South American Andes, where I took part in a Raleigh International expedition to Chile. My enthusiasm for Italy developed alongside my love of its art, history, culture, food, wine and people. I have studied Italian art and culture with the Open University. As a Teacher of Modern Languages in the UK, I was a fully qualified expedition leader for the Duke of Edinburgh Award.
Born in Victoria, Australia, I grew up with the outdoors at my doorstep so my love of nature and knowledge of the Australian bush developed from an early age. I trained as a chef and subsequently worked throughout Australia before travelling to Europe where I was inspired by the flavours of the Mediterranean. My love of Italy motivated me to learn the language and study its history, and that of European settlement in Australia. I have worked in the hospitality and tourism business since 1985 and have led tours in Australia and Europe. For the past 15 years I have guided tours throughout Italy and feel fortunate to call both Italy and Australia home.
"Always cheerful and gave excellent information on food and wine with such enthusiasm. Nothing was too much trouble." C.S - Liverpool
"Good in history, very patient with slower walkers, easygoing and very friendly." T.C - Norwich
In order to maintain high standards of personal service, either Jackie or Mick will be one of the guides on each and every tour. On occasions we work on tours together. The following people work with us on our tours or offer services or holidays which are complimentary to our own.
Annabel Purling: Marketing, UK office and Hedonistic Hiking Tour Manager
I grew up and was educated in England but was lucky enough to spend a month every summer with my family in Tuscany, which sparked my passion for travel and in particular the Italian landscape, its food and its people. Having graduated from University in French and Philosophy, I went on to work in Corporate Communications and Event Management in London. After what might be described as an Epiphany moment in 2003 I left the big city behind to start working as a tour guide, which I've loved doing ever since not least because it has taken me to some of the most beautiful and interesting parts of both Italy and France. My work with Hedonistic Hiking now brings together all aspects of my previous experience and, happily, allows me to eat my way around my favourite country in Europe! In the quieter moments of the year – when wanderlust tends to set in – I like nothing better than to stick a pin in the map and do my own exploring, be it in Asia, Africa or the Americas. Anyone in the UK with questions about Hedonistic Hiking can reach me on 01858 565148. Find out more about Annabel in our recent Blog.
Isabelle Johnson: Hedonistic Hiking Tour Manager
I was born and educated in England but have lived in the Dolomite mountains in northern Italy for the last 15 years. In that time I have built up extensive experience in creating, organising and leading small group walking holidays in Italy and now run my own company, along with Anna, specialising in Dolomite trekking. I studied history at Oxford and have a special interest in the history of the Dolomites in general and of the First World War Dolomite Front in particular. I am also passionate about alpine flowers and am forever increasing my study of Italian wines - a subject which is as vast as it is fascinating. I've known Jackie and Mick for almost as long as I have lived in Italy and love to be involved with Hedonistic Hiking when my other commitments to teaching and translation allow. Find out more about Isabelle in our recent Blog.
Dina Bof: Hedonistic Hiking Tour Manager
Born in Australia to Italian parents I grew up in both cultures, speaking English and Italian and exploiting the best of both worlds, be it the great outdoor lifestyle of Australia or the regular Italian family feasts. A desire to travel started within Australia, across south east Asia and Nepal and continued on to Europe where I have been leading tour groups since 1992 and specifically in Italy since 2003. An early career as a Building Quantity Surveyor led me to an appreciation of historical architecture and interiors and progressed on to Italian art, all of which I now live amongst having taken up residency in Tuscany. Here I continue the family's traditional love for food and wine, travelling throughout the country, exploring, savouring and being mesmerized by the amazing diversity of Italy. Find out more about Dina in our recent Blog.
Tansy Bjorklund: Hedonistic Hiking Tour Manager
I was born in Scotland but having studied French and Spanish I was keen to use my languages and work in Europe. A travel company I was working with sent me to Italy and there started a life-long love affair with this amazing country: the food, the people, the history and the landscape are all so special. Meanwhile another love affair started in France with a young Swedish man! Eighteen years later we still live in the French Alps and we have two children. Winters are busy teaching skiing in Val d'Isère and then, in the summer, I look forward to escaping from the mountains for a little while to get my "fix" of Italy! Find out more about Tansy in our recent Blog.
Cinzia Long: Hedonistic Hiking Tour Manager
I was born in the tiny village of Valtournenche in Italy's Aosta Valley and studied Forestry and Environmental Science at the University of Turin. However, I almost immediately found myself working in the world of tourism and hospitality and have stayed there ever since. I am now married to an Englishman, James, and we are living in Heathfield on the South Coast of England and running a small Deli specialising in cheese, wine and chocolate! Our son Carlo was born in 2012 so he keeps us pretty busy when we are not in the shop, or working on outside catering projects for local weddings and parties. I first met Jackie and Mick back in 2004 when I was working near where they live in Siena and we have been friends ever since! My tours with Hedonistic Hiking give me the chance to travel to Italy and I'm always happy to come back home! Find out more about Cinzia in our recent Blog.
Raffaella Forno: Hedonistic Hiking Tour Manager
I was born in Piedmont and am living there now, but inbetween I have travelled a lot and lived in Brazil and Switzerland following my career in tourism and hospitality. I now live on a farm in Piedmont with my two children and a whole lot of animals, and I run a bar close to my home which makes for a busy life. I love travelling and can speak five languages fluently, with some Portuguese and Romanian too! I love to cook, which is something I learned from my grandmother, and from my home I do cooking classes and demonstrations. I first met Jackie when she bought a group of hikers to cook with me and I am very happy to be involved with Hedonistic Hiking and to show visitors to Piedmont our beautiful region. Find out more about Raffaella in our recent Blog.
You can either book our tours directly with us or through a preferred agent. Below is a list of our recommended agents for Australia, New Zealand and the UK. We don't currently work with an agent in the USA or Canada but if you have one to recommend then please get in touch.
Mary Rossi Travel: Our Main Agent - Sydney
We are delighted to work with Mary Rossi Travel as our agent for our range of all-inclusive guided gourmet walking holidays in Italy, Slovenia, France and Australia.
Long known as “The Italy Experts”, Mary Rossi Travel added our Hedonistic Hiking walking tours to their range of luxury travel experiences in Italy because they are a perfect fit to the tailored holiday itineraries Mary Rossi Travel is renowned for.
Please contact the team at Mary Rossi Travel for any information you may need about the tours.
Karen Platzer: Prime Adventures - New Zealand
An independent New Zealand company that has been specialising in active small group holidays since 1988. Karen and her friendly experienced guides take care of the hassles of travel, ensuring clients have a stress-free, relaxing holiday. Our holidays are small and personalised with a maximum of 14 participants per group. We travel at a more leisurely pace, meet the local people and really get the feel of a country. We believe that after a great day exploring, a comfy bed in a small family-run hotel and a delicious meal are essential. Flexibility is also important - our clients have the freedom to spend a day at the beach or visiting a museum instead of the planned walk, or to share a romantic meal with a loved one rather than join the group for dinner. Fabulous itineraries in New Zealand and beyond. More details are on our website.
Active Travel - Australia
Active Travel is a full service travel agency and tour operator with expertise in travel to all seven continents with over 30 years experience planning and booking amazing holidays and adventures. They specialise in tailor made travel, boutique river cruising on the great rivers of Asia, small ship polar expeditions, walking and trekking journeys to little trodden places along with textiles tours uncovering the rich textile traditions of cultures around the world. They have offices in Canberra, but the best place to start is to peruse their very comprehensive website.
Our recommended City Guides
Freya Middleton: Florence Tour Guide
Born in Sydney, I have a Bachelor's degree with a double major in French and Art History from Sydney University. I first disovered Europe as a Rotary Youth exchange student in Belgium the year after high school and my passion for art, romance languages, European culture and history was born. During my degree I studied Art history and French language at the Sorbonne in Paris. I arrived in Florence on a postgrauduate research grant in 2000 and I have never really left. I worked at the Peggy Guggenheim Museum in Venice followed by the Venice Arts Biennale before returning to Florence permanently where I have been conducting tours of the city and its museums for seven years. I cater to all ages and I enjoy bringing the history alive weaving in stories and anecdotes in order to recreate the atmosphere of Renaissance Florence. I am a licensed tour guide for the city and Province of Florence and all its museums.
Rachel Potts: Rome Tour Guide
Born in England but raised in a lakeside village just north of Rome I was convinced I was English until I went to the UK to complete a BA in Philosophy and French. After graduating from Manchester University and taking a course in Garden Design, my love for Italy brought me back to the area near Rome where I became a botanical guide at the Gardens of Ninfa. This seasonal role I combined with leading groups, firstly tours for students "racing" across Europe, but then more in depth walking tours through rural Tuscany, Umbria, Sicily, Liguria and Basilicata. After a number of years living out of a suitcase I chose to focus entirely on Rome, 9 years ago I took the public exams to be a local guide and have been showing people round the Eternal City ever since. I am still fascinated by Rome's seemingly endless depth and influence and most of all I feel lucky that I have a chance to share this interest with others.
Alice Salvagnin: Milan Tour Guide
Alice Salvagnin runs private guided tours in Milan and is an experienced guide in the city who comes highly recommended. She completed a degree in Tourism (IULM University of Communication of Milan) in 2005 and went on to gain a Specialist Degree in the Management of Heritage and Culture (Cattolica University of Milan) in 2008. She collaborates every 6 months with Poleschi Auction House managing relations with foreign customers in the art world and speaks English and French fluently.
Alice will lead our visit to Leonardo da Vinci's "Last Supper" on our Italian Lakes tour but could be contacted by anyone with time in Milan looking for a private guide to the city. See her email details or visit the website: http://www.milanprivatetours.com/
Fulvia Olivieri: Turin Tour Guide
Fulvia is 100% “torinese” and has been working as a freelancer in incoming tourism for more than 12 years. She studied foreign languages (German, English and French) and in 2002 became a licensed tourist guide for Turin and then in 2011 for Cuneo and the Langhe district as well. Both cities are located in the Piedmont region in northen Italy, surrounded by the the beautiful landscape of the western Alps, and they are rich in history, culture, wine and food traditions. Fulvia is passionate about her region and wants to show the very best of it to visitors. She can design bespoke itineraries depending on individual requirements. You can contact Fulvia by email.
Other tour companies, services and travel websites we recommend:
Dining in Tuscany: Private Chef Services
Orietta Siviero is a talented, charismatic and delightful chef based near Siena in Tuscany. She offers a private chef service to guests staying in self-catering villas and apartments in Tuscany, choose from a selection of inspiring menus which showcase the fabulous Tuscan cuisine. Menus can be matched to quality local wines if desired. Orietta is a qualified sommelier and also offers guided wine tastings. For those interested in a hands-on experience Orietta can provide cookery classes either in-house or in a traditional country kitchen. She has her own website.
Part of the Alps but with its own unique geology and landscape, the Dolomite mountains are best known for their spectacular spiky outlines, the startling colours of their rocks at sunset and the bucolic beauty of their flower filled meadows. This original and varied landscape in north eastern Italy has now been given UNESCO World Natural Heritage status. Dolomite Treks are based in the Eastern Dolomites, north east of Venice, centred around the towns of Pieve di Cadore, Auronzo di Cadore and Cortina d’Ampezzo and the Cadore, Comelico, Ampezzo and Pusteria Valleys at the heart of this uniquely varied meeting place of landscapes, geological forms and cultures.
Italy Best Secrets
The heart of Italy Best Secrets is an exclusive database containing information on more than 860 accommodation properties. Christina and Giuseppe, the owners, place great importance on their editorial independence which allows them to select good value, genuine accommodation where travellers can experience warm hospitality and a passion for bringing people together with good food. They can also design personalised itineraries to match specific interests such as food, wine, art, history, architecture and more. firstname.lastname@example.org
Carolyn Schonafinger: Holidays to Europe
Holidays to Europe is an online European travel directory that allows travellers to compare a wide range of options available to them when planning their holiday to Europe and the United Kingdom. My research, and my own experience, showed that it was very frustrating having to move from website to website every time I wanted to look up another travel option when planning my family's holiday to Europe and I wondered, why couldn’t all this information be available on one single site? To make it easier for other travellers to research their European holidays, www.holidaystoeurope.com.au was born! Visitors to the website can browse a range of (mainly) Australian or New Zealand-owned accommodation and small group tours that aren't generally bookable through travel agents, and read our travel tips, destination articles, blogs and reviews..
Carmellina Ricciardello: Sicilian Experience
Sicilian Experience advocates sustainable tourism in the island of Sicily. Based near Cefalù, the company supports local community projects and encourages the local population to adopt sustainable tourism policies. Sicilian Experience has a range of properties to let and Carmellina also organizes walking tours and tailor made holidays which can include cooking classes, cheese-making with shepherds and visits to places of interest.
Cycling tours and fitness retreats in Laos and Bali. SoulFit adventures incorporates holistic, wellness and fitness elements with a touch of pampering into adventures on the road less travelled and sometimes frequently travelled, while at the same time travelling responsibly and supporting local communities. Our trips are designed for people of all ages, abilities and fitness levels. All you need is a sense of adventure!
Cyclists on Tour
Boutique cycling tours of Italy encompassing the picturesque area around Bassano del Grappa and then on to all of the famous Giro d’Italia climbs in the Dolomites. Our Italian tour guide ensures we see the Giro d’Italia pro race at least 3/4 times. Dining in ancient castles and the original cellars in walled cities becomes an experience in itself. Visit www.cyclistsontour.com for more information