A long-distance love story, a shared passion for travel, Italian roots.
Heather and Beppe met when they worked for the same travel company and Beppe (a cycling guide based in Italy) took a vacation to the US and visited the sales office where Heather worked. They instantly connected over a shared passion for travel and adventure, and after Beppe returned to Italy they began what turned into a three-year, long-distance relationship.
After countless trips back and forth, long chats over Skype and hours of planning and dreaming, they got married. Both entrepreneurs at heart, they wanted to share their passion for adventure in a way that paid homage to their Italian roots. Tourissimo is the result: an active travel company that presents the best of what Italy has to offer in a truly authentic way.
Now married, Beppe and Heather split their time between Turin, Italy during tour season, and Richmond, VA. When not on tour or in the office, they're usually on their bikes or on foot, checking out a new destination or restaurant. They're always hard at work planning new adventures for Tourissimo and for themselves.
About Beppe Salerno
When Giuseppe (Beppe) Salerno started as a bike tour guide in 2000 he never imagined that he would make a career in active travel; he just knew that he loved the experience.
He has very vivid and happy memories of his first tours in Provence with California-based Europeds. He learned fast and was quickly given the responsibility of running his first trip as a tour leader in Tuscany. Guiding in his home country, he realized that he had the knowledge that guests were drooling for and the pride to package and deliver that knowledge to them.
Ciclismo Classico, a leader in biking tours in Italy, was an obvious choice when the following year they had openings for seasonal tour guides. It was a turning point. After leading many tours in Puglia and Piedmont, he was given the responsibility of being the Puglia trip specialist (a destination expert). Puglia took off, and he redesigned the tour, always aiming to improve logistics and to showcase the best of that region. Fast forward 7 years and Beppe (after growing his family real estate business with his two brothers) was given the opportunity to put his managerial skills to work in the travel business when he was offered the role of General Manager at Ciclismo Classico, overseeing operations in Italy and sales and marketing in the USA.
In the best of Italian tradition, it was around a kitchen table that the family gave him the green light to move to active travel full time. With his family’s blessing, he assumed this new role and during his time as General Manager sales began to grow. The experience was invaluable, but being an outsider leading a family business was also a challenge. After a fruitful year with record results, it was time to move on. The following year Tourissimo was born with the intent of becoming the experts on active travel in Italy.
When not in the office or on tour, Beppe enjoys cooking and staying fit through activities such as biking (of course), running and yoga. A mountain bike adventure racer, he is also a mountain bike certified instructor. He opened and is the President of the Italian chapter of IMBA (International Mountain Bicycling Association) for mountain bike trail advocacy in Italy. He is also a certified sommelier.
Beppe graduated from the University of Turin Business School with a specialization in International Marketing Management attained at UNR, University of Nevada Reno.
About Heather Dowd
Heather didn’t leave the country for the first time until she was 21, but after that first experience (a trip with a college group to Nicaragua) she was hooked and has been afflicted by wanderlust ever since.She’s visited over 20 countries on 5 continents with no plans of slowing down. She turned her passion into a career in the travel industry working first for Andean Treks, the pioneers of active travel in South America, and then at Ciclismo Classico, one of the first companies to offer cycling tours in Italy. Now, with over 10 years of experience in the industry, she co-owns Tourissimo and is in charge of Sales and Customer Service. Her favorite part of the job is engaging with guests before, during and after the tour.
Heather’s maternal grandmother was from a small village in the mountains of Calabria, in Southern Italy. Some of her oldest, fondest memories are of her in the kitchen with her Nonni, cooking Italian specialties. It was there that she learned the central importance of “la tavola,” the dinner table, in Italian culture, the space where family and friends share convivial conversation and food made with love.
When she’s out of the office, Heather can be found riding her bike around the city, enjoying a meal or teaching a yoga class. She is an RYT-500 yoga instructor and is happy to offer some poses to guests when on tour.
Read Heather's interview in AFAR with Chefs Mary Sue Milliken and Traci Des Jardins.