Italian-American Heritage

Realize Your Dream Career

My advice on taking the first step towards finding a job you love to wake up to everyday!

As someone who is constantly striving to get to the next level in my life and business, my dream has always been to assist and encourage others to do the same!

On May 17th I had the honor of speaking to aspiring business professionals of the National Organization of Italian American Women at Cipriani on Wall Street in New York.

Following the talk, I had quite a bit of emails and messages asking for specific examples as to what steps I took in order to get where I am today. 

Since I believe that when you learn and succeed then you should teach and when you rise, well your duty is to lift others with you--I created this blog post.

Here you will find anything from business programs, internships, motivational quotes and even straight up advice. Now, just to be clear this is my personal opinion and steps that worked for me. Everyone has there own path.

I am simply sharing this information in hopes that a spark ignites in you!  Also, I understand there is a lot of information included here. Therefore, please comment below with any questions you may have.

As the Italian's say, In bucco al lupo (good luck). You got this!

This is me living my dream. Hosting my group on a tour of the amalfi coast (procida in this case to be exact)

This is me living my dream. Hosting my group on a tour of the amalfi coast (procida in this case to be exact)


Find a Mentor

We’ve all heard stories about the hardships of being a business owner. Stories about entrepreneurs subsisting on ramen noodles and peanut butter while they build their businesses. Or entrepreneurs who sadly go back to day jobs. Because despite their best efforts, they couldn’t get enough clients to help them pay the bills. Maybe you’re thinking it’ll take you years before your business will take off.  Here’s what I want you to know.Yes, starting a business takes a ton of work. You won’t make six figures overnight.

But at the same time – it doesn’t have to take forever. When you have the right mentorship and support, you can grow rapidly and become one of the next big success stories.

One person who can help you with this is my mentor Selena Soo -- a business + publicity strategist who created an amazing business in just two years! 

I took this course and I have to say the support from the group and the personal attention from Selena gave me the right encouragement I needed to take my biz to the next level. Selena is extremely generous and is currently holding some great webinars and even giving away  free information on how to follow her successful path. I hope this resonates with you, it did for me! :)

Sign up here for some great free info today!

Photo from S2 website

Photo from S2 website

Join a National Organization or Local Meet-Up. Find your Tribe! 

The National Organization of Italian American Women was a group that has given me a sense of belonging in New York that I never thought possible. The women in the group share my passion for Italy as well as my Italian heritage. It's amazing to be surrounded by others that not only get your path but also your family! As a member, I have been able to network in the industry and learn from other amazing women. 

Learn more here

Note: Not an Italian-American? No problem, I suggest doing a quick Google search on the Meet-Up or organization in your interest. Be sure to also think outside of your career field, consider your passion first! I am constantly networking outside of travel--this helps expand my business model and gain some insightful advice from other successful CEO's. 

Check out this link to find out easily how to discover the perfect meetup

Take a course in your speciality!

Being in the travel business I have been asked on many occasions for tips on how to travel the world for a living, specifically writing or blogging. 

I would love to give great advice, but being I am not actually a travel writer (I am a travel consultant and tour operator) this can be a bit difficult. However, I do have some friends in the industry that are very successful in this field!

In this case I would recommend travel icon, Matt Kepnes (known to you as Nomadic Matt). Here is your chance to learn from someone who has been named one of the top 100 travel bloggers in the world and his team of successful writing influencers.

The course goes over things like different writing forms, how to make a story flow, different ways to create a story and real life examples.

If this sounds of interest than join others that are passionate about travel writing, blogging and photographer here!

Note: If you are not in travel this should still give you a good idea of what is out there in the world. There are influencers in EVERY field ready to teach you the tricks of the trade. Bonus: Those interested in starting a travel consulting business keep on the look out for more insider tips from me later in the year! 

Photo courtesy of

Photo courtesy of

Travel with an Entrepreneur Focused Group

As a young professional it's important to gain experiences outside of the workforce as well as collaborate with other young professionals to grow your skills. Start Up Island allows young professionals to do just that. 

This great company holds multiple trips a year in which aspiring entrepreneurs are given the opportunity to travel, get to know their peers and be coached by phenomenal business leaders.

Check out how you can join a future trip here.

Picture courtesy of  Startup Island 

Picture courtesy of  Startup Island 


Internships are the best way to gain experience, explore different area within your job field and work close to executives in a company! I was fortunate to have four wonderful internships in the beginning of my career. It is because of those experiences I am where I am today (really).

See  great opportunities in NY, Italy and even virtually below:

International Internships with Global Experiences (WorldWide)

My internship in Florence (Back in 2006) was set up by a company called Global Experiences. This program afforded me the opportunity to fall in love with Italy. This experience helped shape my goals and just 2 years after this career move, I gained dual-citizenship and then moved back to Florence.

Through GE's expert team, they can place you in just about any field that you dream throughout the world!

Learn more about it here.

Video via  Global

Internship with Creative People in Florence (Florence, Italy)

Creative People in Florence offers internships for those interested in the arts. By interning with CPIF young professionals will learn what it's like to be a part of an international community of creative professionals while also establishing skills in such areas as blogging, social media management, writing and publicizing.

This group of individuals are some the kindest, coolest and hard-working creative people I know in all of Italy. If you are into the art then I would not miss this opportunity!

Find out more details and apply here.

Internship in Jewelry Design (Florence, Italy)

This internship is great for someone interested in learning more about social media campaigns and eCommerce especially as it relates to the fashion & design industry or someone interested in learning more about starting a business.

Intern will have the opportunity to work directly with the designer as well as network with other creative professionals in the Florence area. (Sara will be a great mentor)!

Schedule an interview here.

photo courtesy of creative people in florence 

photo courtesy of creative people in florence 

Internship with FLYTE * Foundation For Learning and Youth Travel Education (Virtual)

FLYTE is a nonprofit agency providing funding, teacher support, and itinerary and trip planning for high school students in underserved communities to travel and expand their cultural, academic, and social horizons.

Organization Mission: FLYTE works with students in underserved communities to promote the benefits of travel, education, and cultural awareness through the creation, funding, and management of overseas trips. 

Interns will have the opportunity to help maintain social media campaigns, learn about the funding process as well as learn what it takes to run a non-profit.

Find out more and schedule an interview with one of the co-founders here.

Photo courtesy of FLYTE | Erica Virvo 

Photo courtesy of FLYTE | Erica Virvo 

Inspiring Minds, Great Networking Events, Podcasts, etc.

photo Courtsey of oggi america 

photo Courtsey of oggi america 

It is so important to keep learning from others. My co-panelists from the NOIAW event are not only amazing  but also offer fabulous opportunities (in addition to their own personal businesses) to grow in your career! My advice is to try and connect with these wonderful women! 

Mickela Mallozi is known for being the star and creator of her  Emmy® Award-winning show the Bare Feet® Series. But did you know she also is the Director of the NY Women's Travel Fest. This annual conference has a mission is to inspire, empower, and connect women through travel.  For more information, go to – upcoming festival takes place 2017 in NYC. I personally look forward to this event every year and highly recommend attending.

Joan Pelzer is a social media guru, CEO of Joan Pelzer Media and also runs a business empowerment podcast: 21 Century Entrepreneur. Check out her website for some inspiration!

 Amy Peloso is a Certified Life Coach and Chief Visionary and Client Advisor at The Queen Bee NYC. She’s on a mission to connect people with their purpose and give them the clarity, confidence and courage to fulfill it. She acts as a sounding board, supporter and steady guide for those looking to manage change and transformation in their careers and lives. She is also a dear friend of mine and basically coaches me through life ;)!

Nikki Padilla is an inspiring, young freelancer across a variety of mediums. She is constantly finding new ways to progress in her travel career (and to support her own travel ambitions). She is also a friendly and generous person who I know would love to give some great advice to help motivate others! 

Travel italian style women group tour 2015 | tuscany 

Travel italian style women group tour 2015 | tuscany 

Create a Power Routine

Lastly, if you are still not feeling motivated to work towards your dream then it is time to look at your routine. Are you feeding your mind, body and soul with goodness? Are you surrounded by draining people or maybe even isolating yourself?

To quote Tony Robbins, " The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result." If something is not working then take steps to alter your path.

This brings me back to the idea that  your mind, health and physical well being are the core foundation behind this idea!

I decided to share my daily morning ritual. Again, this works for me but see what works for you.

What can you do to inspire yourself as soon as you wake up? What one positive habit can you add into your day?

  • I rise and shine somewhere between 6:15am-7:00am
  • Set my intention for the day in my 5-Minute Journal
  • Get dressed and work out (running, gym, yoga, Pilates, beachbody, anything to get moving)
  • Return to drink some sort of green, carrot or any healthy juice
  • Enjoy lots of espresso  (ok that is not healthy but I like it )
  • I then turn on my motivational speeches from the great Jim Carrey, Les Brown, Eric Thomas, or even Jimmy Valvano

I know my mindset for the day is going to determine the outcome so that is why I try my best to keep this positive daily routine. Remember change your thoughts, change your world!

What are your career dreams? Take a second, picture yourself doing just this and then go pursue it! Half the battle is just showing up!

 Don't be afraid to take the first step and remember there are so many other's out there just like myself that are here to support you on this journey!


"I advise you to say your dream is possible and then overcome all inconveniences, ignore all the hassles and take a running leap through the hoop, even if it is in flames"

-Les Brown


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Disclosure: Please note that one or two of the links provided above are affiliate links. Because I BELIEVE in these programs I recommend them, I personally feel that they can be a real game changer. This basically means that Travel Italian Style receives a commission on any purchases you make through the links.  In the online world, we are a team and our mission is to change the lives of others together! You will not only be helping yourself by making these purchases but also Travel Italian Style and our partners. Grazie Mille! 

"Always Remember Where You Come From"

My Sunday dinners as a kid were filled with pasta, the smell of fresh basil and smiles  from my 'nonno' and father as they were enjoying their evening espresso together. 

At that moment I had no idea there would only be a few more precious years to savor a moment such as this one. I never could of imagined that by the age of 19 I would of have lost them both to cancer.

Did you ever notice in life that we often think "it will never happen to me." It is SO crazy that we have this mentality.

This post is not intended to be depressing by any means but I did just want to start out by saying: I no longer believe this "it will never happen to me" theory. Instead I try to the best of my ability to live each day as it was my last! 

My family during my high school graduation

My family during my high school graduation

Today my father would of been turning another year older but just 56 years young. Unfortunately, cancer took his life in his early 40's.

The reason I am sharing this personal story is because the loss of my father brought me to life.


Sounds crazy, right? But really it has. His death inspired me to rediscover where I came from (my Italian heritage), where I am going (towards my dream no matter how may challenges come my way) and where I want to be (a business owner with a fulfilling happy life).

 The crazy part is I had no idea I would end up where I am today. After his death I began to travel. Which eventually led me to following my heart and intuition. Now here I am at Travel Italian Style.

The cool thing is he didn't just inspire me! My father Joey was an average guy who was into sports, weight lifting and music but actually he has had a lasting effect on others (whether he realized it or not). When I talk to his friends and family they remember him smiling even through difficult times, talking and joking with strangers and even discussing motivational speeches such as the ESPN video that we are sharing below by the legendary Italian-American Jimmy Valvano.

just a one summer after my high school graduation  I would enjoy my very last dance ever with my father. He passed away the following October

just a one summer after my high school graduation  I would enjoy my very last dance ever with my father. He passed away the following October

 Since you personally never got to meet my father, I thought to honor him today I would share this video. My hopes is that you too will be inspired!

I always loved this speech. Especially when Jimmy V shares what he believes are the 3 most important things we should do everyday & why we must know "where we started, where we are and where we want to be."

Sadly Jimmy Valvano passed away just a few short months after this ceremony. 

However, both him and my fathers legacy lives on! Today I will be saluting my father and Jimmy V for being a reminder to me and all of you to keep our dreams alive! 

 I am sure if you are reading this right now there is something that you have always wanted to do. Whether it be travel to Italy, start a business, study a language or maybe even skydive. Whatever it is, do it today! Honor your dreams and follow through with the commit. I am not saying it will be easy but it sure will be worth it.

I promise you will be truly amazed to see the outcome once you take that first step!

"How do you go from where you are to where you want to be. I think you have to have an enthusiasm for life. You have to have a dream, a goal. And you have to be to willing to work for it."
-Jimmy Valvano
Mr. Joe Cool Santoro January 20th, 1960-October 25th, 2002

Mr. Joe Cool Santoro January 20th, 1960-October 25th, 2002

Meet Cassandra

Cassandra Santoro is the CEO and Founder of Travel Italian Style. As a personal trip planner and luxury small group tour operator, Cassandra is an expert in slow-travel and authentic and inspiring experiences throughout Italy. She also leads motivational talks and can most recently be found at
TEDx DHWBMannheim. Cassandra is currently writing her first book and lives between NY & Florence. Follow her adventures in Italy on Instagram.


A Story of My Italian Family

In celebration of our upcoming Italian-American Heritage Tours, Travel Italian Style team Member, Francesca Panzariello tells the story of visiting her family's home town in Italy for the first time.

    Mom’s Home in Bisaccia

  Mom’s Home in Bisaccia


            My mom’s childhood home was left as if they had emigrated the previous day rather than 30 years ago. Children’s schoolbooks filled dusty drawers and glasses remain stacked in the kitchen. Bisaccia is one of those small towns in Italy that you wouldn’t necessarily visit unless you had family there. Quietly resting on a hill above the stretching green countryside outside Avellino, I can easily see the soft-spoken Casarella clan inhabiting such a place, especially my Nonno. Always the reserved, observing type, I understood why he craved the tranquil days of his birthplace over the busy suburban lifestyle.

            In contrast, arriving further south along the coast to Castinatelli in the province of Salerno, I realized why my Papa would have never been able to live there. Always the loudest, liveliest presence in a room, my Papa needed more space to thrive. He was simply too big for the confines of his small town. Of course he had to leave his mark on the town before he left.

          Although he was perfectly content in his new life in America, my Papa wanted his children to experience the Italian way. In the early 70s, about the time my mom was leaving for a new beginning in America, the Panzariellos arrived in Avellino. After roaming the Avellino streets, I can visualize my dad and his crew of troublemakers strutting around town looking for the next adventure. Creating stories that are still retold over bottles of wine when they reunite by their old stomping grounds.



Those closest to me stress the importance of my Italian heritage. However, I didn’t fully come to appreciate it until I saw it for myself. Now some of my most treasured memories are from learning about my family’s time in Italy. Whether its walking along the route my dad used to take to school, stopping every two minutes in hopes of finding a familiar name on a door, or eating gelato with my mom overlooking the place she once called home. I now know where my family comes from and, furthermore, I know where I come from. 

Interested in finding your family? Check out our Customized Italian Heritage Tours. We actually work with professional genealogists on finding information about your ancestors and then create an amazing tour to celebrate your family's history! 

Meet Francesca

Francesca is an Assistant Travel Consultant for Travel Italian Style and is pursuing a Bachelor’s Degree in International Relations with a concentration in European Systems at SUNY Geneseo.  She highly values and maintains close ties with her Italian heritage. As a longtime traveler, Francesca wants people to have the opportunity to experience the real Italy to the fullest.  The Italy that takes place around a large dinner table with homemade pasta and Limoncello surrounded by people who are filled with humor and passion for life. Francesca joined Travel Italian Style to be part of a company that gives people the chance to experience that authentic Italian lifestyle.