Sharon is an expert in Italian Travel and also a great story teller. Lets her wow your eye and ears her and then call her to book you Italian dream vacation!
Megan Chapa: Hello and welcome to the Travel Agent Interview Podcast. My name is Megan Chapa and I am the host of this podcast. Today on the program we have Sharon Oldham, welcome Sharon.
Sharon Oldham: I'm glad to be here.
Megan Chapa: Sharon, we talked a little bit about gadgets and technology that we love for travel and one of the things we specifically talked about is technology and technology specifically for learning a new language or helping our clients become acquainted with just the knots and bolts of a language or some key phrases before they travel. You specifically send your clients to Italy and you have a couple programs and some Facebook sites that are your favorites for clients that have different traveling requirements and could you tell us a little bit about them?
Sharon Oldham: Sure. I think some people really only want to know key phrases so that they feel like they can make an impression when they're in Italy that they know a few Italian words especially Italian food words, how to order but others want more in-depth. They'd like to be able to carry on a conversation. I kind of vary my recommendations.
Megan Chapa: Sharon, we talked about one specific site, LearningWithOliver, can you tell us about LearningWithOliver?
Sharon Oldham: LearningWithOliver is a good way to have just a daily dose of Italian in your email. Every morning when you look at your email there would just be a quick little sentence depending on your level and then it dissects the words and you can take a look at it for as long as you want or as little as you want and then just move on in your email learning. There's Paroladelgiorno and that actually goes into your email as well. Again, just one or two words used in a sentence and then you can just move on. You're actually spending only 15 to 30 seconds but it’s there every day and you can go back because each one of those sites in the email actually have full websites that you can go and do more in-depth learning if you want or as little or as much as you want to learn depending on how long you want to study Italian.
Megan Chapa: What about some Facebook options? I know you had mentioned there was a couple that you
Sharon Oldham: There are. Facebook again is quick and easy and it appears in your feed every day. Impariamo Italiano is good one because it will come up mostly in Italian but then there’ll be English subtitles. They’ll give you little quizzes and then they’ll give you the correct answers. Another one is Learn Italian with Lucrezia
and she’s got a nice little Facebook feed but she also has a blog and a video blog. She does some interesting things so you can do as little or as much as you want.
Megan Chapa: Don’t worry about trying to look those up, we will include some links for those sites in our show notes and you can just go to travelagentinterview.com and under this episode you'll be able to see all those notes. Thank you Sharon, those are really helpful. Sharon, let’s talk about you the star of our show. Can you tell us a little bit about how you got into the travel industry?
Sharon Oldham: I was an educator for many years and in the summers I have the opportunity to travel and most of the time I went to Europe. I started traveling all over Europe but my friends and I and my husband eventually ended up traveling a lot more in Italy and I kind of became a passion of mine. I began to study the language and I thought I'm going to retire pretty soon, people keep asking me about all the places that I've been. Why not study to be an Italian travel specialist and I meet Anita Pagliasso with a ticket to travel almost 10, 12 years ago and being a home based agent just fit me to a T so I could specialize and use my passion for Italy but also book clients and help them as they're traveling through Italy and the rest of Europe because I travel so extensively in Europe before.
Megan Chapa: Could you tell us some of the success stories from your clients or perhaps a funny story?
Sharon Oldham: I have a lot of funny stories but sometimes I escort groups to Italy and with a group called Ciao Bella Getaway Club and we actually had a group of ladies that has been on a long bus ride up to a winery and in on the bus and touring all day long and we were really glad to be back to Montecatini where we were staying. It was nice to get back then we realized in the morning when we got up one of the ladies came down and she says I fell asleep on the bus last night and nobody bothered to break me up and I went home with the bus driver. She had this horrible experience not speaking any Italian waking up like 30 miles from our hotel. The bus driver flipped on the lights and there she was in the back of the bus asleep because she was a single traveler and everybody else just kind of forgot that she was there. After much conversation with an Italian bus driver that spoke no English and she spoke no Italian, they finally got in touch with someone to come and pick her up, take her back to the hotel. It was kind of funny but she told the story on the bus using the microphone to the whole group and she embellished the story about how the Italian wife of the bus driver was saying, “Why are you bringing these women home?” and it was funny. It was very funny but we usually had really good experiences but traveling is exciting especially with people that don’t know the language sometimes when you get in places where they don’t speak English.
Megan Chapa: That is really funny but lesson learned, keep a copy of your itinerary in your pocket because at least you can point and say this hotel. Sharon, I don’t know that you're going to be able to pick one because I'm sure you’ve have many memorable meals in Italy. Could you tell us one or a couple stories about some of your experiences there?
Sharon Oldham: It’s very hard because I've been traveling to Italy for 30 years or so and every single region has its own specialties. Most Americans think that Italian food is pretty much the same everywhere but you got to each region and you eat what's fresh and what's grown locally and it’s incredible. I was on a trip to Sicily several years ago with the Italian tourist office and they had taken us to a winery and in this winery, outside they were doing a barbeque for those travel agents from all around the world that were trying to understand Sicily wines and Sicily farming and it was probably one of the most memorable experiences I've ever had because their use of wine and lemon and rosemary and just the combination of what they did with all of those flavors over the meat was just exquisite. I might have been exceptionally hungry but it was just the best barbeque and the wine does complemented the meat. I mean you could taste the flavors of the sun, you could taste soil, you could feel the sea in the food. It was just I don’t know, like I said I might have been exceptionally hungry that day but I was almost moved to tears by that meal and I've had a lot of those since but I particularly remember that because it was a family owned vineyard and they were just doing exquisite wines, wonderful food and they were starting sort of an agri tourismo which is like a bed in breakfast on a farm in Italy and they wanted to acquaint us with what they were doing. That was the best introduction I could think of.
Megan Chapa: I think so too. I was really surprised to hear you say lemon, rosemary and wine and then barbeque. Not where I thought you were going with that but it does appeal to me. Sharon, I heard that meatballs and spaghetti is only an American invention, have you ever had spaghetti and meatballs in Italy?
Sharon Oldham: No. That definitely is American. Meatballs are like a separate dish. They do have meat sauce, Bolognese, especially in the northern part of Italy in Emilia-Romagna and Bologna in that area but meatballs per se are like a separate dish so no. I've never had that.
Megan Chapa: It’s good to know. I will not make that error when traveling to Italy and ask for spaghetti and meatballs. Sharon, thank you so much for your time. Is there anything else that you would like to include that we might have missed?
Sharon Oldham: No. I love traveling in Italy. I've spent a lot of time there. I've learned language and I really enjoy sharing my experiences with anyone that’s curious to know more or wants to travel.
Megan Chapa: Thank you Sharon. If you want to get in touch with Sharon you'll be able to find her guest profile on the travelagentinterview.com and again all of the websites and Facebook pages that we mentioned will also be included in the show notes as well as Sharon’s own website. Thank you so much, I'm your host Megan Chapa saying good night.