Le Marche Lifestyle: The Pagliardini family’s food and wine tour business is based in Lake Highlands.

tiero and Katie Pagliardini met in 2006 when Katie was teaching English abroad in Le Marche, a region in eastern Italy. Katie, a Dallas native, was supposed to stay for a semester, but after falling in love with Piero and the Italian culture, stayed for four years.

The couple moved to Dallas after getting married. They settled in Highlands Lake, lived on Edgecove Road, and started their family, but couldn’t avoid the emptiness in their lives.

“When we first moved to the states, Piero always wanted to do something that connected his culture to Dallas,” Katie said.

Piero began importing and distributing wines and truffles from Le Marche. After meeting the famous baker Margaret Braun and having the opportunity to organize a trip for her in Italy, she decided to create a travel service.

He has no business experience, so he signed up for the class.

Piero and Katie Pagliardini with family. Photo courtesy of the Dark Horse Photography LLC family

“I want to take the best part of America, which is the business side, and combine it with the best part of Italy, which is the food and wine,” he said.

In 2015, Pagliardinis founded Italian Tours. Over the last seven years, Piero and Katie have grown their tour service, creating breathtaking food and wine tours that specialize in offering their clients an authentic Italian experience in the place where they first met, Le Marche.

“For tourists, people who come here, they can see the real Italy,” said Piero.

For most, the place was unfamiliar, but for Piero, it was his home. He said it was like Tuscany, without the crowds of tourists.

Food is the centerpiece of the tour. All meals start with locally cured meats and cheeses, along with salads and pasta. He says that second courses in Italy are then reserved for meat, such as slow-cooked veal served with red wine. For the grand finale, customers are served mascarpone or biscotti for dessert with cherry wine.

“We usually have 11 dishes in the weekly tour and my strength is to make sure that each one is unique by pairing different wines,” says Piero.

When travelers aren’t eating, they’re learning about food — cooking classes with local chefs, wine and olive oil tastings, and on autumn hikes, truffle hunting with local guides and dogs.

“Our biggest constant complaint is that there’s too much food on tour,” Katie jokes.

Visits to historic sites such as the Ducal Palace and The Church of the Dead and a trip to the Metauro River are sprinkled into the itinerary. Le Marche also hosts local festivals, the biggest being the truffle festival in October, which is a favorite of Italian Tours.

Art and writing workshops are also offered for those interested in finding inspiration in Le Marche. These classes are taught by successful writers and artists, some local to Italy, and last a whole week, such as writer Jen Knox and artist Mary Whyte.

With the business gaining popularity, the Pagliardini family returned to Le Marche last year so they could be on the field for tours, but kept their headquarters in Lake Highlands.

When asked why they chose to keep the business in Dallas, Piero explained that since most of their customers are from the United States, it seemed like a good idea to keep it in a traditional location.

“The dream is still alive at Lake Highlands,” says Piero.

The Pagliardinis expressed their appreciation for Dallas and the opportunity it has given them to grow their family and business.

Piero and Katie are always looking for new customers interested in their tour and say they will even include a discount for Lake Highlands residents interested in the tour.

“We’d love for you to join us this October for a creative retreat with the author and Suzanne Frank in Dallas,” Piero said.

“Open to artists of all kinds (painters, writers, photographers) from anywhere, as well as non-artists who are just looking to get away and find their inspiration. I hope they can join us this October to bring their spirit back to Le Marche, to this unique culture, food and wine!”

For more information about Italiana Tours, visit italianatours.com.