Guided walking and biking tours in Italy, France, Greece, Croatia, Turkey and Spain
Owner & Manager: Brett Naisby is originally from Ottawa, Canada. He studied both in Canada and France, and in 1990 graduated from McGill University with a Master's Degree in International Studies. That summer he started guiding luxury biking and walking tours in France for “Butterfield & Robinson” but returned to Canada in 1991 to pursue a career with the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs. In 1994 he made a momentous decision to leave his nascent career in diplomacy to return to Europe for B&R on a full-time basis. Instead of France, he landed in Tuscany and immediately fell in love with its charms. He has based himself during the summer season in the Chianti wine-growing region of Tuscany ever since. Brett established his own company, "Customwalks", in 1996 and slowly but surely grew the business. His first trip was for one person but within a few years Customwalks was already running tours throughout Italy and France. Now, after twenty two years in business, Customwalks has run hundreds of trips for thousands of people in dozens of locations throughout Italy, France, Spain, Croatia, Turkey, Algeria, Greece, Slovenia, the Republic of Georgia and New Zealand. Brett oversees all aspects of Customwalks in a very hands-on way. He continues to research and develop new tours as well as guiding several departures a year. He is the first to admit that he is not a business man at heart (Customwalks is hardly a marketing juggernaut!) but rather a bon vivant and traveller who has been lucky enough to apply his interests and passions to create a thriving little company. He is ably helped by the wonderful people you will see below. Brett divides his time between the Customwalks offices in New Zealand and Tuscany (where he oversees the summer season) and Canada.
Brett Naisby, Owner-Director, Customwalks Ltd.
What makes us different?
Meet our Trip Leaders
After completing a Master's in International Relations and cutting short a career with the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs, Brett gave in to his sense of adventure and went off to trek in the Canadian Rockies, the Atlas Mountains of Morocco, the Southern Alps of New Zealand, the Everest region of Nepal and the Italian Dolomites. He has also cycled extensively throughout Europe. He divides his time between Christchurch, New Zealand, and the Customwalks office in Tuscany. Languages: Canadian-eh, French and Italian.
Claire has a PhD in French and Comparative Literature but happily abandoned academia years ago to become a guide. Her zest for life and wanderlust have taken her all over the world, from Albania to Zanzibar, and she now works closely with Brett to oversee the research and development of our tours. Claire is fluent in French and Italian, and can order wine in another 15 languages. She lives in Tuscany when she is not guiding our tours in Italy, France, Spain, Croatia, Greece, Slovenia and Turkey.
Emanuela ("Manu") lives in Rome but is originally from Genoa and grew up in places as diverse as Sardinia, Sicily and Holland. She spent 20 years in Tuscany and even a few in Berkeley, California, so is truly multicultural. A biologist by training, she worked for an environmental consultancy in Tuscany before giving it up to guide for us in 2000. She now works for us full-time, planning trips and handling our finances (not her favorite part of the job!). In her free time, she enjoys hiking and traveling, from the Galapagos to the Greek Islands, Australia to Africa, and exploring the cultural riches of her home in Rome. She guides our tours in Tuscany, the Dolomites, the Cinque Terre, Sardinia and Puglia as well as our French tours in Corsica and Provence. Languages: Italian, English and French.
Sara is 100% Tuscan and lives in Arezzo. She has a passion for travel and meeting new people, and has been working in tourism since 2005, but she still loves to spend a couple of months each winter exploring the world. Sara is deeply devoted to her home town of Arezzo and is a licensed city guide for the historic city and its province. She loves helping people discover the beauty, history and traditions of Tuscany, and she especially enjoys partaking in delicious food and wine in good company. You’re sure to eat well with Sara on our tours in Italy and Spain! Languages: Italian, English, Spanish.
Dayan is a new addition to our New Zealand office team, helping us with marketing and customer outreach. He has 14 years’ experience as a travel agent/consultant in New Zealand and is an accomplished traveller in his own right, including 3 months backpacking around Europe, a 3-month solo overland journey from St. Petersburg to Singapore, a 6-week solo adventure across Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia, and trekking in Nepal. He even took a 2,400 km (1,500 mi) journey through India in a tuk-tuk and made a video about it! He’s travelled throughout the U.S. and is planning a trip to the musical Deep South to coincide with Mardi Gras 2019. We may have to get him out of the office and onto a trip or two!
Marco is originally from Florence but now lives in the verdant hills above Lucca. His love of travel has taken him on hiking adventures all over the world, from the Sahara to the Amazon and Nepal. A man of many skills, he has worked in the fashion industry in Florence, as a chef on a super-yacht in the Mediterranean, and as an artist and mosaicist from his home studio. Marco is a fervent supporter of La Fiorentina, the Florence football club, and the Rolling Stones. He guides our walking tours in the Cinque Terre, Tuscany, the Amalfi Coast and Sardinia, as well as our Vespa tours. Languages: Italian, English, and Spanish.
Melissa is going to love me for putting in this photo, but it was a memorable moment (we had just been up Stromboli volcano with a group of Aussies). She was raised in Michigan but fell in love with Europe after studying for a year in Provence when she was 19. She worked for several years leading bike tours throughout France, and eventually discovered a fascination with art while studying painting in Florence. She has lived in Florence for 15 years and continues to work as an artist and Fine Arts teacher in Florence and Siena but has never lost her passion for guiding people through some of the most beautiful places in the world. Languages: English, French, Italian
Stephanie is originally from the U.S. but has been living in Ravenna long enough to raise two boys and create a thriving mosaic business with her husband. She is passionate about hiking and local traditions and loves ‘poking around’ to discover new spots and trails. Our travellers love her quiet humor and attention to detail which ensures that the tour seems just to happen by itself. She guides our Cinque Terre, Tuscany, Dolomites, Sicily, and Puglia Walks. Languages: English, Italian, and French.
Dennis has always loved traveling, an off-shoot of being born on the Isle of Mann into a British-Italian family. Dennis grew up in Italy, but spent his summers on that island in the Irish sea, with the result that he is perfectly bilingual and bi-cultural. Indeed, he has a passion for intercultural experiences and completed postgraduate studies in international cooperation and development. He has left his footprints in the deserts of Morocco and the jungles of Peru, climbed the Pyrenees in Spain and volcanoes in Mexico. He now enjoys walking in the forests of Tuscany, where he lives. His passion for nature and sustainability recently led him to take part in a business venture related to organic farming, which is now his main activity when he’s not working in tourism or teaching languages..
Manuela was born and raised in the beautiful Tuscan countryside around Siena. She has a keen sense of adventure, which led her to study abroad in Ireland and Spain. She has a degree in environmental conservation and sustainable tourism. After graduating she remained in Ireland, spending five years in the Emerald Isle before returning to sunny Tuscany where she worked at “Dievole,” a leading producer of Chianti Classico wine, as well as at an Eco-hotel near Siena. This winter she hiked 630 kms, from Logrogño (near Pamplona) to Santiago di Campostella. She is now a licensed “environmental” guide for Tuscany and is looking forward to guiding our hikes in Tuscany and in the Cinque Terre, and sharing with you her love of Italy’s natural wonders. Languages: Italian, English, Spanish.
Francesca was born in Arezzo, Tuscany, and loves music, books, and good food and wine. She believes that travel is an important part of life and enjoys exploring new places, meeting new people, and following local recommendations to a new restaurant or breathtaking view. She has traveled extensively through Europe, and loves taking long walks to discover a secluded beach or historical site (her childhood passion was archaeology). After finishing a degree in Classics, she worked in a press office for cultural events in Arezzo, and then worked as production manager for music and theater festivals. She also managed an arts center in Arezzo and writes reviews for an online music magazine. Languages spoken: Italian, English and Spanish.
Rachele is “Comasca,” which means she was born, raised, and lives in the beautiful lakeside town of Como, in northern Italy. At the young age of 16 she went to Australia for a year where she lived with a family and attended high school. She returned to Italy and studied management, tourism, and languages at university in Milan. Rachele has lived in Spain and Greece, travelled extensively throughout Europe, as well as in Central America and India, but has always returned to her hometown of Como. She recently qualified as a licensed trekking guide in Italy and she guides our Cinque Terre and Lake Como walking tours as well as some of our scooter tours (she's a pro at getting around Como by Vespa!). When she is not on tour she helps her mother run a shop in the centre of Como, and every year she relaxes on the Greek island of Folegandros where her family has a house. Languages: Italian, English, Spanish; and a little German, Russian and Greek.
Nefeli was born in Athens and went on her first backpacking trip at the age of 15. A trip to Turkey with her mother and brother made her an avid outdoor enthusiast and passionate traveler. She loves to explore her native Greece, with its beautiful countryside, unique culture, rich history, and amazing contrasts. She studied to be a teacher and did an internship at a Folk Art Museum, developing their educational programs. She also does environmental and outdoor education for children. And on top of it all, she’s a passionate Flamenco dancer!
Dimitris leads our Cyclades Walk and our Dodecanese Island walk and boat trip. Dimtris is an engineer by training but prefers to lead our hiking tours in Greece. His other passions are rock climbing, traditional Greek music (he is a mean Bouzouki player) and poetry. He also has a keen nose for good food which is why we are always happy for him to order for us when we are in the local tavernas. You will not be disappointed. Dimitris also likes to dance, which is a good thing because so do we! Languages: Greek and English.
Mariateresa was born, raised, and lives in Rome where she works as an I.T. engineer. She is an avid outdoors woman, departing just about every weekend to hike the Abruzzo mountains. Her other passion is wine. In fact, she has recently passed the demanding studies and exams to become a qualified sommelier. She has explored much of Italy by foot, and travelled extensively throughout Europe.
Luca is an Italian who fell in love with Spain and decided to move there in 2001. He has also lived and worked in Florence, London, New York, and Madrid, and has travelled extensively throughout Europe and Latin America, as well as in Japan, China, and Dubai. His professional life has been in online business and marketing for the fashion and home décor industries, but his love for travel led him to create a boutique travel agency in his adopted home town of Cordoba. This new professional endeavour allows him to combine his passion for food and wine with the joy he takes in hiking through Andalusia’s dramatic landscapes. In his spare time, he studies Arabic and plays flamenco guitar. Languages: Italian, English, Spanish and French.
Bill is a Blenheim boy, born and bred in the heart of New Zealand Wine country. An experienced and enthusiastic “boatie” with a lifetime passion for the sea, he also has a passion for New Zealand’s flora and fauna, as well as a fascination for Marlborough’s local history and its colorful characters. He has a background in commerce and has built careers in the timber and engineering industries, as well as launching an award-winning coffee brand that’s roasted locally. He enjoys mountain-biking, orienteering, travelling, and sampling New Zealand’s excellent craft beers. Joining the Customwalks team was a perfect opportunity for him to showcase and further explore the region he loves and knows so well, and to meet some new friends along the way.
Jacopo was born in Florence and grew up in the Tuscan countryside. He is a qualified architect but his love of nature and the outdoors led him to the vocation of adventure sport guide. He is a keen kayaker, equestrian, hiker, and biker. He also had a semi-professional career as a theatre actor. His interest in sustainable living and an ecological lifestyle finds expression in his olive grove, which he tends year-round to produce his own organic olive oil. Jacopo leads our Tuscany Walk and Tuscany Vespa tours in his home region of Italy.
Irma is from the mountainous Tusheti region of Northeast Georgia and accompanies our tours in the Republic of Georgia. She is an accomplished horseback rider and could almost ride before she could walk! She graduated from medical school and currently divides her time between her urban apartment in bustling Tblisi and her slate-stone house in the isolated village of Olmo in the Caucasus mountains. Irma is justifiable proud of both Georgia and the mountain people of Tusheti. She is a wonderful ambassador to her country. Languages: Georgian, Russian, and English.
Cristina is from Cesena (Italy). She has an MSc in Natural Sciences from the University of Bologna, is a Dive Master Padi and a licensed skipper. Her love of nature and the sea has seen her studying Marine turtles in Greece and Costa Rica, and sharks in the Bahamas and Philippines. She has been a scuba-diving guide in Thailand, Egypt, and Sardinia, and has taught Marine Biology in the Maldives. Cristina settled down long enough to live in the USA and Australia, but only for a year in each. Somewhere she found the time to author a children’s book, “Rio”: a fantastic adventure of a child in the Amazonian forest. It has obtained the acknowledgment of the WWF and Greenpeace for its “moral and educational value”. She is a member of the Executive Board of the “Tiger Center”, an NGO caring for the preservation of the Royal Bengal Tiger. Happily she still loves Italy and spends her summers guiding our tours in her homeland. She also likes the 49ers! Languages: Italian, English, Spanish and French.
Josko guides our tours in Croatia: Croatia Bike and Boat, Croatia Hike and Boat, and our Croatian Islands scooter tour. Josko is a native of Split and knows the Dalmatian islands like the back of his hand. A certified guide for the city of Split and its famous Diocletian palace, Josko is an avid hiker and takes great satisfaction in showing off the hidden gems of his homeland. When you travel with Josko you will meet dozens of locals as he brings you to meals with families as well as special visits with olive oil producers, brandy makers, and of course wine makers! Languages, Croatian and English.
Sagra - has been guiding for us since 1999 leading trips in Tuscany, Lake Como and the Cinque Terre. Sagra’s native tongue is Spanish, but she also speaks Catalan, English, French and Italian. When not guiding, she teaches secondary school in Spain and is also pursuing a Master’s degree in anthropology. She has a playful sense of humour and she is a delight to travel with. When not guiding our tours she loves hiking, swimming and sharing adventures with her daughter Carla. Languages: Spanish, French, English, Italian, Catalan.
Heidi was born in Gibraltar but was raised in Plymouth, in the U.K. She studied Social Policy and Administration at Brighton University and worked in Social Care for a few years, but eventually embarked on a round-the-world trip during which she spent 7 months in New Zealand. She fell in love with the country and returned to live there in 2013, making a new life in Christchurch where she's busy raising two daughters. She now works part-time for us taking payments and issuing trip agreements.
Ilaria was born in Florence but currently resides in Bologna where she graduated in Performing Arts and Music. She works as a drama teacher with primary school children throughout the Emilia Romagna and Tuscany regions, and we were lucky enough to have her join Customwalks in the Summer of 2009. Ilaria wins the prize for most enthusiastic guide! Ilaria guides our Cinque Terre, Tuscany and Amalfi hiking tours. She is fluent in English and Italian.