Irit Levy is the owner of Jewish Life Experience which is the first kosher travel design service in Italy. Levy has made a career of advising people who keep kosher to make smart choices on accommodation, restaurants and museum tickets, transportation, group and private Jewish heritage tours.
In recent years, Jewish cultural and tourist offerings have developed a lot, and not only in Rome, but throughout Italy: dedicated itineraries, museums, historical sites, specialized guides, kosher restaurants and b&bs, catering services and Shabbat meals delivery are just some of the possibilities that make Italy a destination where the kosher traveler can travel peacefully and feel at home.
“During my 10 years of work at the Jewish Museum of Rome, I have had the opportunity to meet hundreds of Jewish tourists: from families, to couples, to solo travelers. The questions I was often asked were always the same and on these requests I founded Jewish Life Experience.
Where can I eat kosher? Where can I spend Shabbat? How can I take a private tour of the Jewish Museum and Synagogue with a Community guide? What are the best actitvities for children? Where can I find a kosher B&B or a 5 star Shabbat friendly hotel? Then, as I expanded my network, others arrived, which gave rise to the introduction of new collaborations, from the North to the South of Italy, as kosher wine tours in Tuscany, private dinner with a chef who cooks kosher style, yacht rentals in South Italy, or a selection of locations, villas, historic houses of the highest level all over Italy.
In a few words, Jewish Life Experience is a network that acts as tourist information, in person in my case, for the Jewish public, and not only, interested in knowing in an authentic way the history and culture of the local Jewish community with professional and authorized guides.”
What do you mean by ‘professional and authorized guides’?
In Rome, for example, only Jewish Guides belonging to the Jewish Community of Rome can accompany visitors and explain the contents of the Jewish Museum and the Great Synagogue. These Guides are professional and highly trained. The Internet is full of offers to give tours of the ghetto. However, most would-be visitors do not realize that these visits are incomplete, and that they are limited to seeing only the Jewish Quarter. The rites, habits, customs, and traditions of a community are not learned from books -- a person needs to actually live them to narrate and explain them in an authentic way.
What makes your services unique?
My field is very specific, this is what fortunately makes my profession unique.
What makes my service different is my knowledge, that is over 10 years of experience as the head of the Communication and Events office of the Jewish Museum of Rome.
I’ve developed important relationships with the Jewish communities in Italy and the local Jewish and non-Jewish guides. All these relationships allow me to establish an easy and direct contact with the local professionals and offer an authentic experience.
Why should someone use your services instead of a travel guide book?
The time I dedicate to the customer. They have my personal phone number and when they call or text because they have a doubt or a question or have a problem to solve before and during their stay, I answer.
The key is the availability and speed in solving the problems of the people who rely on me or in satisfying their requests: this is a job that must be done in a certain way, in person, full time, not between tours or one check in and the other. It's not about knowing how to sell a cooking class or a city tour.
Full personal assistance requires patience and a lot of energy. Fortunately, I can count on a network of people selected by me, reliable and professional and who work together to ensure the public the highest standards throughout the Italy.
Who is your typical customer and what are they generally looking for?
The client I serve best is the American Jewish family, Americans who live in Israel, French and English people, couples and Jewish associations members from all over the world, including non-Jewish clients and scholars who are interested in traveling and discovering Italy through a Jewish lens.
With regard to the family the client’s main wish is to offer the best trip experience and fun, especially for their children who may be at different ages and with different needs and interests.
Being a kosher traveler, one also looks for the most comfortable accommodation, not too far from the kosher restaurants or the city center, in order to be able to easily reach the best attractions. Sometimes clients simply don’t have time to deal with some aspects of the trips or are not interested in wasting time to search alone for the information they need to plan their vacation.
What is services do you offer to travelers?
I personally take care of my clients by providing them with full personal assistance before and during their stay in all aspects of their daily living in Italy, answering their questions, respond to their needs, and fulfil their wishes in any way that I can: by finding sold out tickets, reserving a table in their favourite restaurants, finding another accommodation if they’re not satisfied of what they have reserved by their own, arranging their kosher meals, or their Shabbat dinner, amongst others.
When clients arrive at their destination, I am in contact step by step, making sure that everything works as planned.
I am based in Rome so if clients are in Rome, I meet with them. It is always nice after planning a trip from the very beginning to the end with someone, to finally get to know each other in person. People need human contact. At least I'm looking for it and this work system, although very demanding, pays off over time in terms of trust and reliability and when they share with me the photos of their best moments, they send me a message to thank me for the good experiences they are having, maybe for a tour that I organized for them, or for a surprise that I helped them to realize, I feel a great sense of gratification. I assure you, speaking from a business and personal point of view, there is nothing more satisfying than being remembered by someone for helping to make their holiday memorable beyond all their expectations.
The Covid-19 pandemic has radically changed our way of life. Sooner or later we will return to travel: how do you think our habits will change?
They have already changed. Humans are extraordinary beings who know how to adapt to any situation. The lockdown has stimulated our imagination, we have learned to travel virtually without moving from our desk, using our computer and platforms like Zoom as a means of transport.
Humans also have an inexhaustible need for human contact to savor, smell, taste, touch, get excited, remember the places and people who have made these places extraordinary in their memory. As soon as we are able to travel again, we will do it in a more conscious way, we will be more demanding, we will look more to quality than quantity and we will increasingly go in search of something that reflects our way of being, favoring tailored experiences and authenticity.