Is there a need for a bespoke tour operator in Sicily?

How and why I went from helping out a friend with his Airbnb listing to being a tour operator


I have been asked the same question several times in the last few years. Are tourists visiting Sicily really getting the real experience? Are they leaving with their bags full of wonder and eager to come back?

I have founded Compass Cultura (and acquired the existing adventure travel magazine knowing that too often the answer has been a sad and dreary no.

I was born in Sicily in the early 80s and I have lived in Catania since then. My friends and family have had (and still have) many opinions on what I should be doing for a living. To be honest, have I had many different thoughts myself. Having explored many different options, having failed and having succeeded some time, I came to the conclusion that even though Sicily is probably renowned for its cash-strapped economy and young professionals leaving to pursue a career abroad or in northern Italy, I’m willing to change something with my [hard] work.

Being this my public confession, let me start with the elephant in the room: Sicily is beautiful, its citizens are one of the most interesting human beings on Earth and have a lot to offer, but sometimes tourist services don’t fully meet the promise. We are renowned as warm, generous, straightforward people, I make my mission to convey these values to the tourists who will visit Sicily with me.

Compass Cultura was born with the unique aim of delivering on our promise, employing locals for the best insights, working with tech companies to help us out with digital services we all need, expanding our reach with an international outlook and office in London.

Make no mistake this might end up as trial and error, as most startup businesses normally end up doing. Outgrowing my small business operation from handling a few homes in Catania to being a global travel operator focusing on Sicily travelling is a whole new playing field. Given the growth and feedback that I have received in the last two years of welcoming guests and making hosts happy, I’m confident that scaling up is within reach – and mostly receiving your feedback and pouring all energies in refining the offering – and building a cosy community of fellow Sicily lovers is actually happening.

I have started with helping a friend of mine renting out his place on Airbnb two years ago. Since then I have acquired and managed several properties, including villas, country houses, beautiful baroque apartments. I have managed 2,000+ check-ins and provided directions and support to thousands of tourists and professionals visiting Sicily for short and long periods. I have answered to any possible request and I did my best to accommodate any need.

To cut the story short, here’s the master plan:

Compass Cultura is now offering several properties on Airbnb and Booking (Villa in Syracuse, Country house in Trecastagni, cosy apartment in Catania)– all of them are professionally managed and carefully reviewed and assessed by me. My organisation manages the listing, the communication, check-ins and check-out, continuous support before and during the stay.

We are expanding our offering with bespoke trip organisation and we are going to add several standard itineraries, which will include wine and food tastings, one-day adventures on Mount Etna, Taormina, Syracuse, Valle di Noto and so on. We want our guests to discover hidden gems and experience Sicily with the eyes of a local. Try with this special offer for a never-ending summer in June.

We are doing this by removing the hassle of having to deal with the complexity and confusion of having to deal with everything yourself. Our guest support channels are always open, you can reach out via email, by filling up our form or by starting a chat (little yellow icon at the bottom right). We want to hear from potential guests before they make arrangements: we want to know what they are looking for and who they are. This way we can come up with our best recommendation and let them enjoy an unspoiled experience.

We will be introducing direct reservations for all of our properties and we will give the opportunity to build up a travel plan by choosing a home, additional services and request little comforts like having the groceries waiting for you on arrival. This it’s easy to get online and call from abroad? Well, it isn’t. What about having a local SIM waiting for you with plenty of data and minutes to call home and stay in touch while in Sicily?

Will you travel with us? We hope so – anyway, I’d like to hear from you and stay in touch.