Meet Italy Expert Alexei Cohen

My family and I spent the long summer months of my childhood in Europe driving up and down the continent. By the time I got to college, I knew I wanted to make travel a permanent part of my life. There is no “travel” major, at least there wasn’t back when I went to university, so I settled on Creative Writing and History. My intentions were to graduate and return to Europe, though where exactly I hadn’t considered.

France was an obvious destination seeing as my mother was French, I had family there and spoke the language. I might have stuck with Paris had it not been for my screen writing professor assigning a Federico Fellini film in senior year. I had never heard the name Fellini before but during the opening frames of La Strada my world pivoted. I fell hard for the black and white neo-realistic images of 1950s Italy and the dramatic story starring my new favorite actors Anthony Quinn and Giulietta Masina. As the final credits rolled I knew I was destined for la dolce vita.

I read and watched everything I could about Italy. I made up for years of ignorance and discovered civilizations and epochs that captivated me. Etruscans, Ancient Romans, Renaissance, Caesar, Brunelleschi, Calvino were barely mentioned at school and I had a lot of catching up to do but more than anything else I wanted to experience Italy in person. I couldn’t wait to walk in the footsteps of giants and stand where the die had been cast and history had been made.

Before graduation I learned the basics of conversational Italian from an old text book and while my friends sent out CVs and prepared for interviews I packed my bag. I got on a plane, boarded a train, hailed a taxi and got off in front of the Colosseum. I spent a long time looking at Vespasian’s monument and exploring the exotic world of Rome. There were fewer tourists back then and I wandered the city lost in the daze that comes when dreams come true. The first time is special especially when it requires roughing it. I survived on a diet of cheese, bread and cheap wine, I slept in hostels and hitch hiked up and down the peninsula. It was the most fun I ever had.

The newness eventually wore off and as my funds dwindled I reluctantly made my way back to New York City where I pursued a writing career in between stints as a bicycle messenger, hot dog vendor and grip on a documentary film set. My articles appeared in Time Out New York and a letter of mine was published in the New York Times. I eventually got a job working for McCall’s magazine but it wasn’t nearly as fulfilling as the open road.

It was at that moment of uncertainty and professional ennui that I met my (future) wife. She was sitting and all I saw was her hair as she sketched at a desk in front of me. I fell in love with her hair but when she spoke and I heard her Italian accent I fell in love with the everything else. It wasn’t reciprocal at first but eventually a combination of homemade bagel sandwiches and long walks underneath grey Manhattan skies convinced her I was the guy.

Maybe it was destiny or maybe it wasn’t but before long we were living together and after a decade in Brooklyn we made the leap to Europe and ultimately landed in Rome where we live today. The family now includes a teenage son and pre-teen daughter and I occupy my time writing travel guides for the Moon Guidebooks Series, including Rome, Florence, & Venice, Florence & Beyond, and Venice & Beyond). I see Italy differently these days. It’s no longer foreign. It’s a second home. I’ve lived here long enough to accept the good, the bad and all the contradictions. None of that has diminished my passion for the country and the excitement I still get from exploring this remarkable land.

Japan Expert Jon DeHart with his host family in their kitchen in 2004

Exploring the Italian Alps with my family

Introducing you to Italy and sharing my passion for the country is the best job in the world. There is something for everyone waiting to be discovered whether you are interested in art, history, sport, food or fashion. I’ll help you go beyond the preconceptions about Italy and dig deep into the culture that will make your journey unique and unforgettable. We’ll start by getting to know each other and develop an itinerary that matches your interests and provides the perfect mix of experiences that stimulate all the senses.

What are you waiting for? Get in touch today so we can start planning your Italian adventure

Alexei Cohen - Italy Expert

Alexei Cohen - Italy Expert

Alexei is the longtime writer of the Moon Guidebooks Italy series and has lived in Rome for over a decade. He’ll be your on-the-ground expert throughout your journey.
General Capuccino Mug

My Favorite Things About Italy

  • Tasting food that isn’t found anywhere else, from tripe sandwiches at market stalls in Florence to deep-fried artichokes in Rome’s Jewish quarter.
  • Gazing on art and architecture that has surpassed the test of time.
  • Observing how Italians approach everyday life: with gusto, flair and elegance.
  • The way every season has its unique traditions from the fruits and vegetables available at my local greengrocer to the holidays celebrated with genuine fervor. 
  • Ordering a cup of espresso or cappuccino from a coffee bar and watching the speed and precision with which it is served at the counter next to animated locals. The fact it still costs a euro and comes with pastries that vary from town to town is another delicious plus.
  • Climbing bell towers to get the best view of small towns across the country. Every town has a special monument to climb and getting to the top is a physical challenge that comes with a panoramic payoff. 
  • People still make things by hand in Italy and watching craftspeople at work and learning about the skills and tools they use to transform leather, glass, wood and other materials into objects of beauty is fascinating.
  • Getting lost and not using a map or relying on GPS is one of my favorite activities which is especially rewarding in Venice and Tuscan hill towns where surprises await around every corner.
  • There’s a different conception of time in Italy and slowing down here means appreciating things that are often overlooked. In a land where history stretches back millennia and cities are known for their eternity there is no rush and that’s exactly how it should be.

Some of our Favorite Italy Tours

We’ve got some great Italy tours we’ve developed over the years. These are some of our favorites. And, while many tour operators have similar routes, it’s really the inner-workings and attention to detail that truly matter and make our Italy tours stand out.

Classic Italy

Explore 3 remarkable cities that have left an indelible mark on civilization. This exhilarating urban adventure stimulates all the senses and delves deep into Italian culture.

Eclectic Italy

Immerse yourself in the iconic charms of Tuscany and the Cinque Terre. Discover legendary medieval hill towns, rolling vineyards, Renaissance masterpieces and pristine coastal landscapes.

Italy Rediscovered

Discover the lesser known pleasures of Italy. Experience a mix of history, nature, and culture at every stage of this journey through the stunning towns and monuments of southern Italy.