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. Our small group walking holidays are designed by us and guided by us. The hiking tours and tailor-made gourmet experiences combine our three passions: 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 10 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 the tour. On occasions we work on tours together. The following people work with us on our tours or offer services or tours which are complimentary to our own.
Mary Rossi Travel: Our Main Agent
We are delighted to announce that Mary Rossi Travel is now our agent for our range of all- inclusive guided gourmet walking holidays in Italy 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.
We are looking forward to working together with the team at Mary Rossi Travel.
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 07976 910535.
Rachel Potts: Rome Tour Guide / Hedonistic Hiking Tour Manager
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.
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.
Cinzia Long: Hedonistic Hiking Tour Manager
I graduated in Forestry and Environmental Science and enjoyed a spell as chef in Europe's highest manned refuge. I was born in Piedmont and raised in the Valle d'Aosta, the Alpine region in the north west of Italy. My love of food and cooking began in my mother's kitchen and developed during a period later in life when I became the manager of a small, exclusive hotel in central Tuscany. Working as a walking guide in Italy's most beautiful corners has allowed me to explore my love of nature and walking. Nowadays I am based in the UK where I am a director of Rare & Organic www.rareandorganic.co.uk, an independent merchant of quality wine and speciality food direct from the source.
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.
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. email@example.com
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.
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