The people who will lead your tour are quite simply outstanding individuals.
They are knowledgeable, smart, witty, charming, and entertaining. They have to be able to tell a good yarn, have a good laugh, and keep a tired bunch of hikers happy both on the trail and at the dinner table. Even more important, they are there to look after your wellbeing and keep you safe.
Guiding a group of people for a week is a full-on job but it is fun, and extremely rewarding. Indeed, we make lasting connections as well as great memories during the course of a tour. By the end it feels like we are a bunch of mates having a great adventure together. In short, the guides are there to look after you, entertain you, inform you and generally enrich your travel experience.
The people you see below guide our tours not because of necessity, but because they love it.
Meet our Trip Leaders
As of 2020 Brett has guided at least one tour every year for the past thirty years. He can hardly believe it! A bon-vivant, avid hiker, and raconteur Brett brings great enthusiasm and knowledge to every tour he leads. Guests usually mention a keen sense of humour, which raises eyebrows amongst friends and colleagues alike. Brett’s passion for the outdoors and travel has seen him hiking in such exotic locales as Algeria, the Tusheti Mountains of Georgia, and the high Atlas mountains in Morocco. He has also cycled extensively throughout Europe and continues to enjoy exploring New Zealand’s epic landscapes. He divides his time between Christchurch and Tuscany. Languages: Canadian-eh, French and Italian.
Until recently Nina was a tormented soul. She was torn between her life as a corporate lawyer in Auckland and her need to sling on a backpack and get out into New Zealand’s gorgeous backcountry. Happily, N.Z.B.F. may provide the perfect solution to Nina’s dilemma as she can guide a couple of tours a year with us while continuing her career in law. During one hiatus from the corporate world Nina worked as a guide on two of NZ’s most famous multi-day hikes; the Routeburn track and the Milford track. She also guided groups along the Greenstone and Caples valley routes. Imbued with an innate sense of Adventure, she has sailed extensively in the Mediterranean and worked and travelled in Western Canada. Nina’s professionalism, good humour and cheeky wit will keep you both informed and entertained during the tour. (Nina is on the left)
"Marlborough Bill" was born and bred in the heart of New Zealand Wine country. An experienced and enthusiastic “boatie” with a lifetime passion for the sea, he also has a passion for New Zealand’s flora and fauna, as well as a fascination for Marlborough’s local history and its colorful characters. He has a background in commerce and has built careers in the timber and engineering industries, as well as launching an award-winning coffee brand that’s roasted locally in Blenheim. He enjoys mountain-biking, orienteering, travelling, and sampling New Zealand’s excellent craft beers. Since 2017 Bill has been helping us with our two week long South Island tour. He has enjoyed sharing his knowledge of and love for his home region of Marlborough and he has made many new friends along the way.
Kim is a man of many talents. Boaty, scuba diver, golfer and Blenheim fashion trend setter he had a too long career as an accountant and then partner in a local Blenheim business before finding his true calling as a guide. Indeed, when not guiding our tours Kim provides his services through his "Day Tripper" guide services in the Marlborough wine country. Super well connected throughout the Marlborough region Kim brings local knowledge and lore (whether or not it is true is incidental, the key is the story!) to our Queen Charlotte and Kaikoura Coast walks.
When not in lockdown Simon escapes Melbourne to come over to NZ to guide the occassional tour with us. Armed with an MBA that is totally irrelevant to the task at hand Simon compensates with his vast knowledge of flora, fauna, and that's not all. Nicknamed Dr. Scat by one of our younger travellers Simon isn't afraid to tread where others fear to go. He has a long and varied C.V. which includes Head of Horticulture at Tauranga Zoo in Sydney, Management positions at Wherribee Zoo, and more recently Senior positions with various Melbourne Area City Councils managing their public domains. Besides his botanical knowledge he adds a very welcome and classic Aussie "She'll be Jake" attitude to the tour dynamic. A keen walker Simon has contributed not only to our NZ tours but also to our boat-based tours in Turkey and the Dodecanese Islands of Greece.
Heidi was born in Gibraltar but was raised in Plymouth, in the U.K. She studied Social Policy and Administration at Brighton University and worked in Social Care for a few years, but eventually embarked on a round-the-world trip during which she spent 7 months in New Zealand. She fell in love with the country and returned to live there in 2013, making a new life in Christchurch where she's busy raising two daughters. She now works part-time for us taking payments and issuing trip agreements.
The Guides that follow lead our CUSTOMWALKS hiking tours in Europe.
Emanuela ("Manu") lives in Rome but is originally from Genoa and grew up in places as diverse as Sardinia, Sicily and Holland. She spent 20 years in Tuscany and even a few in Berkeley, California, so is truly multicultural. A biologist by training, she worked for an environmental consultancy in Tuscany before giving it up to guide for us in 2000. She now works for us full-time, planning trips, handling payments to suppliers, in addition to guiding several tours a year. In her free time, she enjoys hiking and traveling, from the Galapagos to the Greek Islands, Australia to Africa, and exploring the cultural riches of her home in Rome. She guides our tours in Tuscany, the Dolomites, the Cinque Terre, Sardinia and Puglia as well as our French tours in Corsica and Provence. Languages: Italian, English and French.
Claire has a PhD in French and Comparative Literature but happily abandoned academia years ago to become a guide. Her zest for life and wanderlust have taken her all over the world, from Albania to Zanzibar, and she now works closely with Brett to oversee the research and development of our tours while continuing to guide many of our private, customized tours. Claire is fluent in French and Italian, and can order wine in another 15 languages. She especially enjoys guiding our boat based tours in Grecce, Croatia, and Turkey. She lives in Florence.
Melissa is going to love me for putting in this photo, but it was a memorable moment (we had just been up Stromboli volcano with a group of Aussies). She was raised in Michigan but fell in love with Europe after studying for a year in Provence when she was 19. She worked for several years leading bike tours throughout France, and eventually discovered a fascination with art while studying painting in Florence. She has lived in Florence for 15 years and continues to work as an artist and Fine Arts teacher in Florence and Siena but has never lost her passion for guiding people through some of the most beautiful places in the world. Languages: English, French, Italian
Marco is originally from Florence but now lives in the verdant hills above Lucca. His love of travel has taken him on hiking adventures all over the world, from the Sahara to the Amazon and Nepal. A man of many skills, he has worked in the fashion industry in Florence, as a chef on a super-yacht in the Mediterranean, and as an artist and mosaicist from his home studio. Marco is a fervent supporter of La Fiorentina, the Florence football club, and the Rolling Stones. He guides our walking tours in the Cinque Terre, Tuscany, the Amalfi Coast and Sardinia, as well as our Vespa tours. Languages: Italian, English, and Spanish.
Dennis has always loved traveling, an off-shoot of being born on the Isle of Mann into a British-Italian family. Dennis grew up in Italy, but spent his summers on that island in the Irish sea, with the result that he is perfectly bilingual and bi-cultural. Indeed, he has a passion for intercultural experiences and completed postgraduate studies in international cooperation and development. He has left his footprints in the deserts of Morocco and the jungles of Peru, climbed the Pyrenees in Spain and volcanoes in Mexico. He now enjoys walking in the forests of Tuscany, where he lives. His passion for nature and sustainability recently led him to take part in a business venture related to organic farming, which is now his main activity when he’s not working in tourism or teaching languages..
Stephanie is originally from the U.S. but has been living in Ravenna long enough to raise two boys and create a thriving mosaic business with her husband. She is passionate about hiking and local traditions and loves ‘poking around’ to discover new spots and trails. Our travellers love her quiet humor and attention to detail which ensures that the tour seems just to happen by itself. She guides our Cinque Terre, Tuscany, Dolomites, Sicily, and Puglia Walks. Languages: English, Italian, and French.
Francesca was born in Arezzo, Tuscany, and loves music, books, and good food and wine. She believes that travel is an important part of life and enjoys exploring new places, meeting new people, and following local recommendations to a new restaurant or breathtaking view. She has traveled extensively through Europe, and loves taking long walks to discover a secluded beach or historical site (her childhood passion was archaeology). After finishing a degree in Classics, she worked in a press office for cultural events in Arezzo, and then worked as production manager for music and theater festivals. She also managed an arts center in Arezzo and writes reviews for an online music magazine. Languages spoken: Italian, English and Spanish.
Dimitris leads our Cyclades Walk and our Dodecanese Island walk and boat trip. Dimtris is an engineer by training but prefers to lead our hiking tours in Greece. His other passions are rock climbing, traditional Greek music (he is a mean Bouzouki player) and poetry. He also has a keen nose for good food which is why we are always happy for him to order for us when we are in the local tavernas. You will not be disappointed. Dimitris also likes to dance, which is a good thing because so do we! Languages: Greek and English.
Nefeli was born in Athens and went on her first backpacking trip at the age of 15. A trip to Turkey with her mother and brother made her an avid outdoor enthusiast and passionate traveler. She loves to explore her native Greece, with its beautiful countryside, unique culture, rich history, and amazing contrasts. She studied to be a teacher and did an internship at a Folk Art Museum, developing their educational programs. She also does environmental and outdoor education for children. And on top of it all, she’s a passionate Flamenco dancer!
Manuela was born and raised in the beautiful Tuscan countryside around Siena. She has a keen sense of adventure, which led her to study abroad in Ireland and Spain. She has a degree in environmental conservation and sustainable tourism. After graduating she remained in Ireland, spending five years in the Emerald Isle before returning to sunny Tuscany where she worked at “Dievole,” a leading producer of Chianti Classico wine, as well as at an Eco-hotel near Siena. This winter she hiked 630 kms, from Logrogño (near Pamplona) to Santiago di Campostella. She is now a licensed “environmental” guide for Tuscany and is looking forward to guiding our hikes in Tuscany and in the Cinque Terre, and sharing with you her love of Italy’s natural wonders. Languages: Italian, English, Spanish.
Rudy was born and raised in Chianti, Tuscany’s beautiful wine region. He has degrees in anthropology and photojournalism but is also a yoga instructor and practitioner of shiatsu and osteopathy. He embraces a holistic approach to well-being so has studied the health benefits of plants and herbs and their culinary uses. He also loves backpacking around the world to learn about other cultures, and enjoys the beauty of our wonderful planet. He found a way to combine his interests by becoming a certified hiking guide, and since 2011 he has been guiding hiking and cycling tours throughout Italy for eight months of the year while spending the other four on his journeys of discovery.
Rachele is “Comasca,” which means she was born and still lives in the beautiful lakeside town of Como, in northern Italy. At the young age of 16 she went to Australia and lived with a family while she attended high school. She returned to Italy and studied management, tourism, and languages at university in Milan. Rachele has lived in Spain and Greece, travelled extensively throughout Europe as well as in Central America and India, but has always returned to her hometown of Como. She recently qualified as a licensed trekking guide in Italy and she guides our Cinque Terre and Lake Como walking tours as well as some of our scooter tours (she's a pro at getting around Como by Vespa!). When she is not on tour she helps her mother run a shop in the centre of Como, and every year she relaxes on the Greek island of Folegandros where her family has a house. Languages: Italian, English, Spanish plus a little German, Russian and Greek.
Mattia was born in a small town in the Marche region of Italy, near the Adriatic coast, then moved to Tuscany where he got a Master’s degree in Moral and Political Philosophy at the University of Florence. He switched focus, however, and worked for many years in the Apennines mountains, where he founded a small company dealing with environmental education, hiking, cultural events, and the breeding of endangered fish. He led a volunteer project in the Casentinesi National Park and organized a festival called Libra, "where literature meets nature." He also wrote a novel entitled “Le orme degli uomini liberi” (the footsteps of free men), which was based on the Italian “Partisan” Resistance in the Alps during WWII. He loves books, nature, and cycling, but also unconventional music, football and history. His goal is to spend his life exploring the mountains of the world, and then writing about it. Mattia guides our tours in Tuscany and the Dolomites. Languages spoken: Italian and English.
Irma is from the mountainous Tusheti region of Northeast Georgia and accompanies our tours in the Republic of Georgia. She is an accomplished horseback rider and could almost ride before she could walk! She graduated from medical school and currently divides her time between her urban apartment in bustling Tblisi and her slate-stone house in the isolated village of Olmo in the Caucasus mountains. Irma is justifiable proud of both Georgia and the mountain people of Tusheti. She is a wonderful ambassador to her country. Languages: Georgian, Russian, and English.