JULIA BERG – Tour Manager
The travel bug grabbed Julia at an early age when she attended school in France from her home in Sussex; the adventure of trains, boats, planes, and discovering new places has forever remained a passion. Her love affair with Croatia started in 1993 and has extended across the Balkans and Eastern Europe since, having escorted tours, celebrities and film crews. She speaks French, German, Spanish, and Croatian (an ongoing work, being one of the world’s most difficult languages). She is famous for finding “hidden secrets” on tours!
PAUL DAVIES OBE – Special Guest
Paul is currently a news correspondent for ITN News and has won more awards for his work than any other news television reporter. He reported from the war-torn regions of the former Yugoslavia, and his footage of the onslaught of Dubrovnik by the Serbian dominated Yugoslav army is some of the most powerful war footage ever recorded. Paul’s films are shown on a continuous loop in the theatre at the Museum of Homeland War on Srdj Hill above Dubrovnik. He has also won numerous awards for his reporting on the Gulf War, Afghanistan, and perhaps most notably reporting on the plight of Romanian children during the revolution. He was the first foreign broadcast journalist into Bucharest, Romania after the fall of Ceausescu.
CHRISTINA HATZIMICHAEL-WHITLEY – Guide Lecturer
Dr Christina Hatzimichael-Whitley studied Archaeology and Art History at Thessaloniki (BA), Toronto (MA) and Cambridge (PhD). She has been teaching at Cardiff University since 2008, including widely in Aegean prehistory, Greek art and religion, and classical archaeology. Christina has a sound grounding in archaeological fieldwork and has been the assistant director in the Praisos Project in Crete since 2006. She has been leading tours with her flamboyant and lively style since 2009, and helps to plans tours using her deep inside knowledge to ensure guests receive a taste of the local Greek culture. This also extends to the best local Greek cuisine, selecting lunch and dinner venues from some of her favourite dining experiences.
SHARON KIVITY – Tour Manager
Sharon (pronounced Sharòn) Kivity is British and has the good fortune to live in both the UK and Umbria. She has a first class degree in Modern Languages and subsequently gained a Masters. Sharon has worked as a tour manager for many years and is passionate about travel and, in particular, sharing her love of Italy with her guests on tour. When not escorting groups around Italy and Europe, she is usually found cooking for friends… then working it off by jogging and long walks. Sharon loves classical music and, in parallel to her career in tourism, used to run several arts festivals including one dedicated to chamber music.
MARIA LALEVE – Tour Manager
Before moving to the UK, Maria worked as a journalist and interpreter in Madrid. She has lived in France, Spain, and Eastern Europe and speaks fluent Spanish, French, English, and Bulgarian, with Italian and Russian at an intermediate level. Maria has a degree in Modern Languages, an MA in Cultural Studies, and a diploma in Photography. Although she is an avid traveller, she still has some 140 countries on her bucket list. When she is not travelling, researching, or guiding tours, she works on her photography projects.
BRIAN LANE – Tour Manager
Brian is charismatic and full of life and has been leading tours to worldwide destinations for over 10 years. Bringing a professional but approachable manner to our tours, Brian is a firm favourite with our clients. His recent tours to Albania and Macedonia have become favourite locations for him. The archaeology, geography and history of this beautiful region are fascinating, and he is excited to see them develop as destinations of choice. In his spare time, Brian enjoys golf, walking with his dog, Sasha, and Asian cooking.
LEONIE LOUDON – Tour Manager
Leonie’s bubbly and affable character backed with over 10 years’ experience and a previous career as a travel writer make for an ideal tour manager. Fluent in Italian, Spanish and French, she’s also a qualified sommelier and has led cultural, archaeological, wine, and nature tours over the years in Europe and South America. Her good sense of humour and tenacious attitude are a real hit with our clients, and that is backed by the superb feedback she receives.
SAHRAH MAI – Tour Manager
Sahrah is a management consultant and former tour director who grew up locally. She speaks German, Farsi, French, and a smattering of other languages, and worked in Europe, the Middle East and Australasia before settling in New Zealand. She now divides her time between the UK and NZ where, alongside her postgraduate studies, she guides on an island nature reserve for rare endemic species and indulges her passion for birding and wildlife photography. Sahrah is professional, good-humoured and empathetic, and she’s an astute problem solver who does what she can to help every guest enjoy their holiday.
ADRIAN MOURBY – Guide Lecturer
Adrian Mourby has worked as a BBC drama producer, opera producer and journalist, and for many years gave talks about opera on BBC Radio 3. He still regularly writes programme essays for numerous operatic societies. Adrian’s own productions have been predominantly of operas from the baroque repertoire, but he has a particular love of Italian opera. In 2007, the Torre del Lago Festival awarded him its Puccini Medal for his original work advancing Puccini scholarship. Adrian has had three novels published as well as two AA guide books and a book of humour based on his award-winning Radio 4 series ‘Whatever Happened To?’. In 2017, Icon Books published two new titles by Adrian, Rooms of One’s Own and Rooms with a View.
SOPHY DOWNES – Guide Lecturer
Dr Sophy Downes teaches classical archaeology at John Cabot University in Rome. She studied at Oxford (BA Literae Humaniores) and Cambridge (MPhil Classical Archaeology) and received her PhD from the Institute of Archaeology, London. She wrote her doctoral thesis on architecture and politics in fifth-century BCE Athens and Persia, which gave her a good excuse to travel extensively in Iran, Greece, and Turkey. She has taught at UCL and Edinburgh and held fellowships at the British Institute of Persian Studies in Tehran and the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens. She subsequently lived in Athens for several years, where she learnt to drink tsipouro, cook avgolemono, and decipher the Greek ferry timetables with a reasonable degree of accuracy. She currently lives in Rome, where she drinks caffe con panna, explains to her students why all ancient Roman culture is really Greek, and continues her island-hopping adventures whenever she can. She learnt to sail on the chilly east coast of England and is constantly amazed by the warm, blue sky and tranquil waters of the Mediterranean, to which she looks forward to welcoming you.
JOHN OSBORNE – Guide Lecturer
John Osborne graduated in Classics at Cambridge University and taught classical subjects for over thirty years at Marlborough College, where he was Senior Master. He worked for several years for the British Council in Iran and Turkey, which gave him a now longstanding interest in Islamic culture. John is a NADFAS-accredited lecturer and has lectured regularly for NADFAS (now the Arts Society) and other organizations at home and abroad since 2005. He has lectured on Ancient Rome and Islam at the University of Bath and leads and lectures on specialist tours abroad to various countries, but in particular Iran and Bulgaria, for which he has a special enthusiasm.
MIKE READ – Tour Manager
Mike is a freelance nature photographer specialising in birds, flowers, mammals and other wildlife as well as landscapes. Living on the western edge of the fabulous New forest National Park in southern England, he has a wide range of images of wildlife, traditions and views from this unique area. Having led tours for a number of companies for many years, Mike has now started working alongside Prestige Holidays to offer a package of easy-going wildlife watching holidays.
SUSIE REED – Tour Manager
Susie has been in the travel and hospitality business for most of her career, working within the hotel, airline, tour operating and event management industries both in the UK and overseas. She has lived in Australia, Greece, Canada and the USA. For the past 20 years, she has been particularly involved in the Incentive and Group Travel business, during which time she has held positions in Sales/Marketing and Operations and has been responsible for developing, marketing, and operating tailor-made incentive and group travel programmes overseas and in the UK. She has a great deal of experience in hosting high-end travel events and is passionate about providing the best in hospitality and service levels.
PAUL STRATTON – Tour Manager
Paul is our expert on all things Italy. He has over 30 years’ experience in providing travel advice on Italy as a destination and has worked with Prestige for 12 years, creating a perfect product portfolio and exciting tour itineraries. With a home in Lake Garda, Paul’s love affair with Italy started when, as a 16-year-old, he took a train from London to Palermo, Sicily. He still recalls the assault on his senses when he arrived. With a charismatic personality and a dedication to impressing clients with his local knowledge, we are still trying to find a fault!
SOFIA URIARTE ELORRIAGA – Tour Manager
Born in Bilbao, Sofia moved to the UK in 1995 and has worked in the travel industry for over 25 years. She has travelled extensively during her tour managing career, from the US to the Middle East and as far as Japan and including two around-the-world cruises. Sofia speaks fluent Spanish, Italian, and English. Bubbling with personality, her experience and outgoing nature combined with a great sense of humour have made her a real favourite with our guests. Sofia’s recent travels to Italy and Croatia have ignited a passion for these destinations, where she often recommends some delicious eateries and experiences.
WILL WAGSTAFF – Guide Lecturer
Will Wagstaff is a leading ornithologist and naturalist, who has led tours in destinations from the Isles of Scilly all the way to the Falkland Islands. Will is the Scillies’ leading authority on birds, flowers and butterflies, and he can also talk on other aspects of island life, from archaeology to history to place names and shipwrecks, should the wildlife hide away. Will has held an active role in conservation work around the islands for the last 20 years and is an honorary president for the islands’ Bird Group. He has also appeared on TV’s Three Men in a Boat and Wild Britain and wrote the Bradt Travel Guide on the Falkland Islands.
ESTHER UNTERWEGER – Tour Manager
Born in Austria, Esther studied Provincial Archaeology and Art History at the University of Graz, Austria. Her other interests include 20th century Vienna and the Viennese Secession, two of her favourite subjects. Later, Esther studied Maritime Archaeology: studying at both Karl-Franzen Graz and Southampton universities, and working on research and excavation projects with a maritime focus. Her favourite travel experiences – she couldn’t just choose one – include exploring the jungle in Belize, touring the desert in Jordan and backpacking across Java, Bali and Lombok. She enjoys working on archaeological projects, diving, outdoor sports, and, of course, travelling.