Emily FitzRoy, Bellini Travel
Who They Are: Intellectual and sophisticated but far from staid, British-born FitzRoy has family roots in Italy and today splits her time between there and London. With a young family of her own, she has a no-nonsense, get-it-done approach and is particularly great for those with kids.
What They Do: FitzRoy’s contacts include blue-blooded Venetians who secretly unlock their gardens for parties and their palazzi for rental. She also holds sway at overbooked hotels and with curators who lead custom cultural tours.
Peak Experiences: A bespoke visit to Basilica di San Marco with FitzRoy’s best guide, Franca Zanchi, goes further than most private tours, as do more modest stops (out-of-the-way trattorias, tiny bars, a peephole used by Casanova).
Andrea Grisdale, Ic Bellagio
Who They Are: A former guide and tour manager from England, Grisdale runs her 11-year-old firm from Lake Como and returns to Venice at least three times a year. Her top man there is Guido Leon, a dapper music and history specialist who’s led tours for close to three decades.
What They Do: Grisdale’s staff of 20 tackles vacations and travel of all kinds, including villa rental and special event planning, in a personalized, detailed fashion that focuses on insider access. Arrangements for every itinerary begin with a long phone call to fully understand clients' interests.
Peak Experiences: A private after-hours organ recital in Basilica di San Marco; a visit to Murano glass factories (Cenedese, say) normally closed to the public; cooking classes with a second-generation Venetian chef.
Insider’s Italy, Marjorie Shaw
Who They Are: Shaw runs her 21-year-old firm from her native Rome, with slightly punky architect Guiseppine and classically stylish historian Antonella her key Venice guides.
What They Do: Services run from Antipasto, which only arranges accommodations, to Dolce and Tartufo— personalized and specialized plans that cover every aspect of a trip.
Peak Experiences: A stay in an impeccably furnished, canal-facing private apartment in a 16th-century palazzo with a courtyard; a visit to the 15th-century boatyard of the nonprofit Arzana, an association devoted to the preservation and restoration of antique boats and the craftsmanship behind them.
Joyce Falcone, Italian Concierge
Who They Are: Falcone, whose dual citizenship and Italian fluency belie her home base of Aspen, has been in business since 2001. This year she will spend more than four months in Italy over the course of five trips, three of which will include time in Venice and the Veneto.
What They Do: Well-suited to the region, Falcone specializes in custom walking tours and culinary and wine trips focused on local cuisine, chefs and producers. She also has strong knowledge of hotels beyond the usual five stars.
Peak Experiences: A cooking lesson with Cesare Benelli, chef at the beloved al Covo; private tours of Palazzo Grimani, the 16th-century home of a prominent Venetian family that recently opened as a museum; entry and costumes for Carnevale balls around the city.%new_page%
Andrea Sertoli, Select Italy
Who They Are: Rome-born Sertoli splits his time between Chicago and New York, putting Venice operations in the hands of art historian, sommelier and guide Sara Cossiga, whose husband, Dario Pinton, also works with Sertoli when not consulting with the city and the Guggenheim on arts education.
What They Do: End-to-end booking is possible, as are custom experiences, all arranged by a Chicago-based staff of ten. Select also has extensive prepackaged half- and full-day itineraries that can be easily booked “off-the-shelf,” as it were, through its website.
Peak Experiences: Tours of private contemporary art collections; tastings with the owner of a top Venice gelateria, Alaska; cooking with chef Marika Seguso (wife of Murano glass scion Gianluca Seguso).
Donata Grimani, Venice Etc
Who They Are: The fabulous Grimani, who hails from one of the city’s oldest and most well-connected families, and her two American-expat partners have nearly eight decades of combined experience in Venice and the Veneto.
What They Do: They’re less travel agents and more generous Venetian acquaintances who introduce their clients to stylish locals and provide a consummate insider’s perspective.
Peak Experiences: Cocktails, a meal or a stay in a friend's Veneto villa or Grand Canal palazzo; dinner at a fisherman’s hut in the lagoon; visits to contemporary artists’ studios; or just an amble around town with Grimani, during which shouts of “Ciao, Donata! Ciao!” follow wherever one goes.
Also of Note
These outfitters don’t work exclusively in Italy, but they bring their usual expertise to Venice and the Veneto. Abercrombie & Kent (abercrombiekent.com) does two set trips a year plus bespoke ones, which can include a private recital at La Fenice. Artisans of Leisure (artisansofleisure.com) combines cultural expertise and connections with luxe accommodations and transportation. Butterfield & Robinson (butterfield.com) focuses on biking and walking, not least of all a canal-side ride to the Lamborghini Museum. And Context Travel’s (contexttravel.com) walking and boat tours leverage the knowledge of guides who are working experts, like marine geologist Luca Zaggia, who leads lagoon and canal trips.