LOOKING BACK: Tony Santelli’s fondest fam memory, in Italy with Alitalia
Tony Santelli

LOOKING BACK: Tony Santelli’s fondest fam memory, in Italy with Alitalia

TORONTO — For Tony Santelli, the glory days of travel had some of the best fams ever.

Among the many memorable fam trips he’s been on throughout his 47 years as a travel agent, Santelli, a senior travel advisor with FunRexAlcyon Travel in Laval, Quebec, says one in particular stands out. 

It was the early 1980s in Tuscany, where Alitalia had invited a group of lucky agents to experience what one does in Italy, namely, a whole lot of pasta-eating and wine-sampling. 

Back in those days, “you were truly invited,” says Santelli, meaning there was no cost for the fam other than a $50 contribution to cover gratuities. “Those days are gone forever.” 

He remembers visiting a winery in the Chianti region where the group enjoyed a lunch of homemade pasta. After telling the restaurant owner how much he enjoyed the dish, the restaurateur proudly introduced the group to his wife, who had cooked the delicious meal.

“She naturally insisted that I have a second plate, which I did not refuse,” recalls Santelli.

But the couple’s hospitality did not end there. After lunch, they escorted the group downstairs to the restaurant’s cellar where, to Santelli’s great surprise, they offered him a 1975 bottle of Chianti Classico.

“That evening at our hotel in Florence, we shared the bottle with a colleague and the bartender of the hotel bar. Great wine, great memories, a great fam,” says Santelli.

While he thinks fams today aren’t quite the same as those from yesteryear, Santelli tells Travelweek that being a travel agent still brings him incredible joy every day. 

“I am constantly learning. Not only do I organize memorable trips for my clients, but in doing my research I am learning something new every day. And with so many changes happening almost daily, you want to be on top of it,” he says. 

When asked what he finds most challenging about being a travel agent, his answer is short and sweet. 

“Nothing, really,” he says. “After so many years in the travel industry – I actually began my career at CP Air back in 1972 – I can honestly say that I’ve seen it all. Being as passionate as I am, I look at each new day as a day to bring joy to people’s lives.”

As part of Travelweek’s 50th anniversary celebrations in 2023, travel advisors across Canada are sharing their industry memories with Travelweek readers. To share your memories, contact Deputy Editor Cindy Sosroutomo at cindys@travelweek.ca.

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