Luxury (but affordable!) all-inclusive group travel experience that will change your life

A study published in the Journal of Tourism Analysis found that travelers tend to feel more satisfied with their lives than non-adventurers do.  

After spending over a year in her New York apartment during the pandemic and adjusting to the ‘new normal,’ Daily Mail’s US Style Director, Pandora Amoratis, decided her life could use a reset.

Her inner free spirit (coupled with a few glasses of red wine while watching Under The Tuscan Sun with Diane Lane) was the deal breaker, and like a character from Nine Perfect Strangers, she decided to join a group of 13 strangers on a trip to Tuscany under the impeccable orchestration of A Moveable Feast.

While the travel experience is not advertised as a wellness retreat, it should be. 

After spending over a year in her New York apartment during the pandemic and adjusting to the ‘new normal,’ Daily Mail’s US Style Director, Pandora Amoratis, decided her life could use a reset. Like a character from Nine Perfect Strangers, she decided to join a group of 13 strangers on a trip to Tuscany under the impeccable orchestration of A Moveable Feast 

The central element of the villa¿s entryway was a grand stone staircase in the foyer which led to a large ballroom with a balcony providing clear views of the Leaning Tower of Pisa in the distance

The 12-bedroom estate was originally built as a hunting retreat for the De Medici family

Founded in 2019 by John Munson, A Moveable Feast hit the pause button due to the Coronavirus, but with swift vaccine rollouts, the unique travel experience is back and better than ever while taking all Covid-safe precautions

CURATED COMMUNITY 

Founded in 2019 by John Munson, A Moveable Feast hit the pause button due to the Coronavirus, but with swift vaccine rollouts, the unique travel experience is back and better than ever while taking all Covid-safe precautions.

The curated itineraries are moveable in that every one-of-a-kind and once-in-a-lifetime travel adventure is set in a different exotic, global locale where guests stay in epic residences and villas. 

Past destinations include Marrakesh, Morocco, Madrid, Spain, and the ski resort of Livigno, Italy.  

A Moveable Feast discloses only the essential details about the trip upfront including location, lodging, cost and a few suggestions on what to pack. Yet while that may sound like a scary prospect to some, the mystery contributed to the thrill for me.

‘I like to say — without sounding too egotistical — that there’s not really anything like this,’ John says. ‘I’m selling you a week where you’re going to get to be a bit happier than you normally would be.’

'I like to say ¿ without sounding too egotistical ¿ that there's not really anything like this,¿ John says. 'I'm selling you a week where you're going to get to be a bit happier than you normally would be'

‘I like to say — without sounding too egotistical — that there’s not really anything like this,’ John says. ‘I’m selling you a week where you’re going to get to be a bit happier than you normally would be’

The curated itineraries are moveable in that every one-of-a-kind and once-in-a-lifetime travel adventure is set in a different exotic, global locale where guests stay in epic residences and villas

The curated itineraries are moveable in that every one-of-a-kind and once-in-a-lifetime travel adventure is set in a different exotic, global locale where guests stay in epic residences and villas

FEARLESS LEADER 

With a degree in hospitality and a background in nightlife ventures, John is a ringmaster of sorts, bringing together people from all walks of life to embark on a journey they will never forget. My group included travelers ranging in age from their early 20s through their middle 40s and included both couples and singles.

A leader by nature, the 39-year-old commands attention with his quick wit, vast knowledge (of just about everything!) and a flair for fashion.

By day, his effortlessly chic Tuscan style consisted of linen separates brought to life by a printed scarf or a pair of designer sunglasses; while a sleek suit in an unlikely shade expressed his colorful personality come sunset.

With a degree in hospitality and a background in nightlife ventures, John is a ringmaster of sorts, bringing together people from all walks of life to embark on a journey they will never forget

With a degree in hospitality and a background in nightlife ventures, John is a ringmaster of sorts, bringing together people from all walks of life to embark on a journey they will never forget

ELEMENT OF SURPRISE

John is completely in charge of the entire itinerary — all you have to do is show up.

While it’s an unorthodox approach, I had faith in the man who as a Jeopardy contestant in 2009 sported an ascot (and embellished the loop on his podium display screen signature to resemble a penis), could at the very least plan a good time.

‘When you show up at the airport, you’re picked up by one of our drivers and then for the next week, you don’t have to make any decisions. Everything has been planned. You have these different excursions every day,’ said John.

He added: ‘You’re getting some culture; you’re getting some history, and each evening we have decadent dinner parties to tie it all together — and inform you of the following day’s activities.’

FIVE-STAR LODGING

I knew this was going to be an experience like none other the moment the wrought iron gates opened and I caught a glimpse of the 15th Century villa, located in Asciano, San Giuliani Terme, Pisa.   

The 12-bedroom estate was originally built as a hunting retreat for the De Medici family, and as we pulled into the long driveway, I was awestruck by the spectacularly charming hilltop setting and the sunny shade of Tuscan yellow (a popular color used in Italian countryside architecture) accented with light blue shutters in a nod to the Mediterranean Sea.

Present. Grateful. Excited. Alive. At last!

¿What I offer is a return to connecting with others, something I think people need now more than ever. Watching the conversations that start, and the friendships and intense bonding that comes out of it is what I think is really magical,¿ John said

‘What I offer is a return to connecting with others, something I think people need now more than ever. Watching the conversations that start, and the friendships and intense bonding that comes out of it is what I think is really magical,’ John said

Villa host Fabio Petrucci joined us on several evenings adding a fabulous burst of energy that only the fun-loving European could

Villa host Fabio Petrucci joined us on several evenings adding a fabulous burst of energy that only the fun-loving European could

Italy is the world's largest producer of wine. It's not just a drink, it's a part of local habits and culture, so naturally over the course of the week it was flowing more generously than water. Winemakers from Fattoria Uccelliera and Podere Panta Rei vineyards made house calls to our villa for pre-dinner tastings. No complaints from a mostly American group

Italy is the world’s largest producer of wine. It’s not just a drink, it’s a part of local habits and culture, so naturally over the course of the week it was flowing more generously than water. Winemakers from Fattoria Uccelliera and Podere Panta Rei vineyards made house calls to our villa for pre-dinner tastings. No complaints from a mostly American group

The central element of the villa’s entryway was a grand stone staircase in the foyer which led to a large ballroom with a balcony providing clear views of the Leaning Tower of Pisa in the distance. There were also sitting rooms with fireplaces, a massive dining room and two floors of bedrooms, most with their own bath.

The regional architecture offered the grace of a bygone era with all modern conveniences including air conditioning, satellite television and Wi-Fi.

Plus, the delightful staff was on-site daily cooking breakfast and dinner, while the villa host Fabio Petrucci joined us on several evenings adding a fabulous burst of energy that only the fun-loving European could.

It was a relief to this group of strangers that our first day¿s outing was wine tasting at Pieve De Pitti , a vineyard owned and operated by Sergio (a former shoe designer) and his wife, Ida

It was a relief to this group of strangers that our first day’s outing was wine tasting at Pieve De Pitti , a vineyard owned and operated by Sergio (a former shoe designer) and his wife, Ida

Sergio toured us around the Pieve De Pitti vineyard

Sergio's wife Ida cooked the group a delicious lunch

Sergio toured us around the property and fields while Ida prepared a multi-course meal that included a lemon pasta dish that many of my fellow travelers reminisced about for the rest of the trip

INDIVIDUAL ITINERARY

No itinerary or experience is ever the same. ‘I try to take on the culture of the place,’ said John. After locating the perfect private estate, John searches for activities that are unique to that particular country or region, and within an hour-and-a-half driving radius of the lodging.

‘The cuisine and the food and the wine is a big part of it, but it’s more about seeking out the excursions and the trips,’ he shared.

It was a relief to this group of strangers that our first day’s outing was wine tasting at Pieve De Pitti, a vineyard owned and operated by Sergio (a former shoe designer) and his wife, Ida.

Sergio toured us around the property and fields while Ida prepared a multi-course meal that included a lemon pasta dish that many of my fellow travelers reminisced about for the rest of the trip.

On day two, we explored the historic town of Siena, famous for its medieval cityscape, the Duomo, and the Palio, a semiannual horse race held in the Piazza del Campo town square

On day two, we explored the historic town of Siena, famous for its medieval cityscape, the Duomo, and the Palio, a semiannual horse race held in the Piazza del Campo town square

Midweek, we explored a cashmere market before taking a dip in the ocean and enjoying lunch at Bagno Chimera in the luxurious town of Forte Dei Marmi

Midweek, we explored a cashmere market before taking a dip in the ocean and enjoying lunch at Bagno Chimera in the luxurious town of Forte Dei Marmi

The trendy seaside resort is home to high-fashion boutiques, Michelin starred restaurants and exclusive beach clubs

The trendy seaside resort is home to high-fashion boutiques, Michelin starred restaurants and exclusive beach clubs

On day two, we ventured to a sustainable organic farm, Fattoria Poggio Alloro, in the hills overlooking San Gimignano before exploring the historic town of Siena, famous for its medieval cityscape, the Duomo, and the Palio, a semiannual horse race held in the Piazza del Campo town square.

The following afternoon, the adventure seekers went zip lining at Canyon Park in the Lucca Valley, while a few of us decided to stay behind and visit a hair salon within steps of the villa’s gate.

Midweek, we explored a cashmere market before taking a dip in the ocean and enjoying lunch at Bagno Chimera in the luxurious town of Forte Dei Marmi. The trendy seaside resort is home to high-fashion boutiques, Michelin starred restaurants and exclusive beach clubs.

To wind down a long week of fun and indulgence, our final day was spent at Bagni di Pisa in San Giuliano Terme. The 5-star resort offers a variety of thermal spa services, as well as health and weight-loss programs, relaxation therapies and beauty treatments.

All 14 of us indulged in serenity baths and spa treatments before eating lunch together in our bath robes.

'I try to take on the culture of the place,¿ said John. After locating the perfect private estate, he searches for activities that are unique to that particular country or region, and within an hour-and-a-half driving radius of the lodging.  'The cuisine and the food and the wine is a big part of it, but it's more about seeking out the excursions and the trips,¿ he shared

‘I try to take on the culture of the place,’ said John. After locating the perfect private estate, he searches for activities that are unique to that particular country or region, and within an hour-and-a-half driving radius of the lodging.  ‘The cuisine and the food and the wine is a big part of it, but it’s more about seeking out the excursions and the trips,’ he shared

To wind down a long week of fun and indulgence, our final day was spent at Bagni di Pisa in San Giuliano Terme where we indulged in serenity baths and spa treatments before eating lunch together in our bath robes

To wind down a long week of fun and indulgence, our final day was spent at Bagni di Pisa in San Giuliano Terme where we indulged in serenity baths and spa treatments before eating lunch together in our bath robes

The decadent evening meals and wine tasting were a favorite part of each day for Pandora

The decadent evening meals and wine tasting were a favorite part of each day for Pandora

BREAKING BREAD IN STYLE

The decadent evening meals and wine tasting were a favorite part of each day for me. 

Italy is the world’s largest producer of wine. It’s not just a drink, it’s a part of local habits and culture, so naturally over the course of the week it was flowing more generously than water.

Winemakers from Fattoria Uccelliera and Podere Panta Rei vineyards made house calls to our villa for pre-dinner tastings. No complaints from a mostly American group! Salute!

The dinner table was staged in a different area of the villa nightly. From the olive garden illuminated by white string lights to the romantic wine cellar, each multi-course meal felt special and magical — and everybody dressed up for these occasions.

The tablescapes were more elegant and artful by the day, with the final night¿s setting a sea of lush bouquets and candelabras fit for a contessa, decorated to perfection and arranged like a vision from the pages of a shelter magazine or a party designed by a celebrity event planner

The tablescapes were more elegant and artful by the day, with the final night’s setting a sea of lush bouquets and candelabras fit for a contessa, decorated to perfection and arranged like a vision from the pages of a shelter magazine or a party designed by a celebrity event planner

The tablescapes were more elegant and artful by the day, with the final night’s setting a sea of lush bouquets and candelabras fit for a contessa, decorated to perfection and arranged like a vision from the pages of a shelter magazine or a party designed by a celebrity event planner.

While there wasn’t assigned seating, the meals offered an organic and serendipitous game of musical chairs where we all had the pleasure of interacting and engaging with someone different, getting to know every guest on a deeper level beyond small talk.  

When we’re confronted with situations that can be outside of our comfort zone, it might seem intimidating at first. ‘There are usually very interesting people. Who are they? Are they going to like me? Are we going to get along? I do things to spark conversations at the dinners,’ said John.

Dinner conversation did not disappoint, meals effortlessly transitioned into nightcaps, dance parties, silly photo ops and late night kitchen raids. 

While there wasn¿t assigned seating, the meals offered an organic and serendipitous game of musical chairs where we all had the pleasure of interacting and engaging with someone different, getting to know every guest on a deeper level beyond small talk

While there wasn’t assigned seating, the meals offered an organic and serendipitous game of musical chairs where we all had the pleasure of interacting and engaging with someone different, getting to know every guest on a deeper level beyond small talk

While there wasn¿t assigned seating, the meals offered an organic and serendipitous game of musical chairs where we all had the pleasure of interacting and engaging with someone different, getting to know every guest on a deeper level beyond small talk

While there wasn’t assigned seating, the meals offered an organic and serendipitous game of musical chairs where we all had the pleasure of interacting and engaging with someone different, getting to know every guest on a deeper level beyond small talk

Dinner conversation did not disappoint, meals effortlessly transitioned into nightcaps, dance parties, silly photo ops and late night kitchen raids

Dinner conversation did not disappoint, meals effortlessly transitioned into nightcaps, dance parties, silly photo ops and late night kitchen raids

HUMAN CONNECTION

‘What I offer is a return to connecting with others, something I think people need now more than ever. Watching the conversations that start, and the friendships and intense bonding that comes out of it is what I think is really magical,’ John said.

Sure, the trip was full of spectacular activities that blended glamour and culture, but at the heart of it was the people I met and got close to. Everyone with their own unique story but at the core, we were all the same. 

‘There’s group travel that takes you on group tours and focuses on the destination,’ states John. ‘What I found (unexpectedly), is it became less about the places we went or the big beautiful villas, and more about putting together a group of people to share this experience and get to know one another pretty intensely in a short period of time.’

'There's group travel that takes you on group tours and focuses on the destination,¿ states John. ¿What I found (unexpectedly), is it became less about the places we went or the big beautiful villas, and more about putting together a group of people to share this experience and get to know one another pretty intensely in a short period of time'

‘There’s group travel that takes you on group tours and focuses on the destination,’ states John. ‘What I found (unexpectedly), is it became less about the places we went or the big beautiful villas, and more about putting together a group of people to share this experience and get to know one another pretty intensely in a short period of time’

At the heart of it was the people I met and got close to

A Moveable Feast trips are about the relationships that form in a short period of time

In addition to the glam factor of a luxury group travel experience, John views his piece in it as a larger sociological experiment. He goes on to say, ‘I’ve studied the price points and it’s something where you’re only going to be around a group of very high disposable income individuals and that can limit the personalities

HAPPINESS FOR SALE

At the end of the day, what everybody is trying to buy is happiness. 

In addition to the glam factor of a luxury group travel experience, John views his piece in it as a larger sociological experiment. He goes on to say, ‘I’ve studied the price points and it’s something where you’re only going to be around a group of very high disposable income individuals and that can limit the personalities.

The Moveable Feast trips are about the people you are traveling with. 

Yes, you get to see things at a level of luxury that is more elevated than most group travel experiences can offer, but, as John states, ‘It isn’t something so expensive that it excludes people.’

Looking for a path to better living?  

Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter 2022 Moveable Feast excursions are in the works, with destination locations TBD.

You will not be drinking green juice, practicing yoga or meditating, but while exploring a beautiful bucket list locale, dining like royalty and making new friends you will be nourishing your soul.

Now that’s living La Dolce Vita!

You will not be drinking green juice, practicing yoga or meditating on a Moveable Feast trip, but while exploring a beautiful bucket list locale, dining like royalty and making new friends you will be nourishing your soul

You will not be drinking green juice, practicing yoga or meditating on a Moveable Feast trip, but while exploring a beautiful bucket list locale, dining like royalty and making new friends you will be nourishing your soul

All photos by Joe C shootjoec.com 

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