Moments that matter: our Travel Directors share their favorite cultural experiences

Choosing different cultural experiences when you travel can have a hugely positive impact on the places you visit. By encouraging locals to share and celebrate the culture of their people, region or country, travelers give greater value to the art form, food or tradition.

More than 60 percent of our trips feature special MAKE TRAVEL MATTER® Experiences, which are endorsed by industry experts and directly relate to UN Global Goals. This action helps make travel a force for good.

“The opportunity to give our guests a Make Travel Matter moment or event can be magical or even profound,” says Travel Director Lesley. “To have them participate is a win-win for not just our guests but also the community that we are supporting. 

“You will never be able to step into someone else’s shoes or into their culture if you do not get out there to experience it for yourself.” 

Today we’re asking our Travel Directors and staff to share their favorite cultural experiences that have left a last impression.

Native grapes and organic farming in Portugal

Travel Director Pedro is passionate about all things vinho and so his favorite Make Travel Matter cultural experience naturally takes Trafalgar guests to an organic farm for a special meal and tasting on our Best of Portugal trip.

Tell us about your favorite Make Travel Matter experience?

At the end of the Best of Portugal trip we visit Vale da Capucha. It’s a beautiful 20-acre farm located in the Lisbon wine region that produces organic wines. 

What happens during this special cultural experience?

We are met by the family – Afonso and Teresa Marques or their sons Manel the chef and Pedro the winemaker. They tell us a little about the history of the family and the estate and why they decided to farm organic along with the challenges and the reasons for a more sustainable future.

The family prepares a special meal that starts in the garden with local products family recipes and four or five different wines and beverages. Usually there is home-made cottage cheese, freshly baked bread, olives and a sardine pate made from a family recipe.

The main course is served inside the 19th-century cellar and is finished with a lovely dessert and a toast with a Madeira wine. 

Why is this visit so special?

We feel at home. We feel that we are making a difference. 

Guests leave an excellent impact by traveling with Trafalgar. We are helping a small organic wine producer to survive, and we are helping the environment by supporting a sustainable farmer. In this world where if you are not big you don’t survive we are helping the organic farm support their community as they employ a lot of people locally.

Any cool facts we should know?

They have lots of very sweet wire hair Jack Russel dogs that follow us during the visit, and you’ll discover many local Portuguese grape varieties such as Arinto, Baga, Fernão Pires, and Alvarinho.

TAKE THE TRIP: Best of Portugal

Weaving ancient stories in Italy

You might recognize Patrizia, our Milan-based Travel Director who usually leads Trafalgar tours through Italy. Let’s discover the cultural experiences that have left a mark on her.

Tell us about your favorite Make Travel Matter experience?

May favourite Make Travel Matter cultural experience is Marta Brozzetti’s lab in Perugia, Italy. We regularly go there on the tour called Italy Bellissimo, which is an 11 days regional tour of Italy.

What happens during this special cultural experience?

The first time I went to Marta’s Lab it was a lovely spring afternoon. Marta, a very joyful and vibrant lady, walked us to her traditional wooden frame hand-weaving workshop. It turns out her lab was inside a 13th-century church and former monastery that her family restored and saved from decay. So just walking inside this building with a very high and pointed vaulted ceiling was emotional. 

Along the church nave you have 17th- and 18th-century wooden looms with a million levers and threads of many colours. As you think you have seen everything, on a wooden mezzanine above your head you notice the precious punch cards done manually to reproduce exact clothing patterns of the Middle Ages and of the Renaissance that you can admire in paintings of the time. 

Marta then shows how these looms work, simultaneously operating pedals, levers, bobbins and punch cards. It’s just hypnotizing seeing her at work! Marta inherited this small business from her grandmother when there were way more people working in the workshop. Marta’s mother worked there too, making the business known outside Perugia. 

Now it’s all in Marta’s hands to continue this legacy and she feared having to close a few years ago. As the generations are passing, she couldn’t find anyone who knew how to use these looms. With tears in her eyes she explained the joy she felt when TreadRight (Trafalgar’s charity arm) decided to sponsor her workshop so that she could afford to hire two young people and teach them all the skills Marta had learned from her mother and her grandmother. 

The silence in the room while my group and I were glued listening to Marta’s story is indescribable!

Why is this cultural visit so special?

It really touched our lives listening to Marta’s story and seeing her dedication to her family tradition. Knowing that just visiting the workshop with Trafalgar we were already helping in passing this amazing tradition to future generations gave us all a feel-good emotion. 

After experiencing this particular Make Travel Matter experience in Italy, I explained about the many others worldwide. It was an unforgettable afternoon. 

Marta’s Lab is an off-the-beaten-track place you don’t just bump into if you don’t know about it.

Any cool facts we should know?

Marta’s Lab is resonating with some well-known Italian fashion designers, who recently commissioned her textile studio to make classy evening handbags. Craftmanship finding a new lifeblood! 

TAKE THE TRIP: Italy Bellissimo

Discover Native American culture through song and dance

Born and raised in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, our Travel Director Lesley says she loves living in the south because of the food, culture, and welcoming community. She loves getting to travel deeper at home and show lucky guests around too.

“I love to show our guests their “bucket list” destination,” she says. “To be there and to witness their faces light up – well it lights up my heart.” 

Tell us about your favorite Make Travel Matter experience?

My favorite Make Travel Matter experience is with Pioneer Adventures of the Old West when we have the option to do the Red Heritage Dinner Show. Our guests are amazed to be able to experience this Navajo Family owned and operated Performance Art.

What happens during this special cultural experience?

The guests are introduced to flute playing and then cultural storytelling that helps you become immersed in their culture. Then right when you are drawn in  . . . they demonstrate several pow wow dancing!  

I love seeing our guests’ faces light up with amazement and wonder. They are all smiling and clapping to the rhythmic music and encouraging even the youngest dancers.  

Then at the end of the show, the performers and family members welcome our guests to talk to them and ask questions. It is truly a positive moment and experience that our guests have a special opportunity to experience with Trafalgar.

TAKE THE TRIP: Pioneer Adventures of the Old West

RELATED BLOG: These 6 Trafalgar tours uplift, celebrate and respect Indigenous communities

Have you experienced any of these culture tours or visits? Tell us about your favorite Make Travel Matter cultural experiences in the comments….

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