Lo Schiavo Genelogica not only provides expert Italian dual citizenship services and ancestry research, we also celebrate the work of other companies working to provide clients with ‘all things Italian’.
Karen La Rosa is the owner and operator of La RosaWorks. Over a decade ago, she started her dream of offering educational and experiential programs in Sicily. Recently, we reached out to Karen to learn a bit more about her story and share her responses here!
1. Please share a bit about what your blog / business is about and how long you have been doing it?
I’ve been arranging tours to Sicily for groups and individuals for almost 12 years. I generally accompany 4-6 tours a year myself and the other itineraries I custom design are for people who prefer to travel on their own. With my knowledge of all the options in Sicily and a fabulous team on the ground there, I make all the arrangements for them including accommodations, guides, drivers and activities in whichever way the client likes to travel. I’ve arranged everything from a week of horseback riding to tours with families look for and at their ancestral roots. It started with people coming to me with requests because I had knowledge and connections, and over the years that has grown into a lovely business mixing my passion for Sicily with a professionalism. Sicilians often say that I know the island better than they do.
2. Why did you create the service / business?
I’ve had a passion about my ancestral homeland, Sicily, since I was young. The opportunity to explore and experience it so thoroughly is a gift, really. I have been all over the island, to the smallest out of the way towns, to farms and wine producers. I have made it a point to traverse the roads on which the locals travel. It has offered me a deep understanding of people, place and history and yet I still have a list of places to visit! La Rosa is a very common name in Sicily. Visiting the town from which my ancestors came was really meaningful to me. They were shoemakers in Castelvetrano. I saw the street where they lived, the church they attended. The connection is strong.
3. What are three of your favorite things about Italy? How did you fall in love with the country?
Even if you aren’t Italian I have not met anyone who doesn’t love Italy. Italy gives us both natural beauty and the arts in abundance. I love their appreciation for, and absolute reverence of, food. They have given us so many wines from their incredible biodiversity. Their hospitality, warmth and generosity remind us that life is rooted in people. The list goes on. I worked with a woman once who never went anywhere else. She only traveled to Italy. I get it. The 20 regions are all unique and have a lot to offer a visitor.
4. Do you follow any other social media channels that also celebrate Italy? If so, can you share those with us?
I do. On the links page of my website are organizations and bloggers that I enjoy. Personally I follow a lot of photographers on Instagram. I love to observe how a place can be captured in so many different ways. Joe Zarba is a friend and wonderful American photographer of Sicily. Peppe Cumbo in the Agrigento area has a great eye. There are so many. Although the Instagram platform is sometimes a quick shot of something, in some ways, it can inspire a deeper look in other places.
5. When do you hope to resume offering tours?
I wish I had a crystal ball, but I think the Fall will be doable. I am beginning to reschedule things for that period. 2022 should be a banner year because everyone needs to travel, to breathe fresh air and move around. It’s going to require a lot of juggling. People who have airline credits will have to find replacement flights and I have one client already struggling with that a little. My word to the wise is that if you plan to travel, look at your passport expiration date now. It’s taking months to renew with all the slowdowns.
6. What types of virtual opportunities to learn about Sicily do you offer?
I have arranged a few online events. I look for unique opportunities. I offered a tour with the Tenement Museum that took us to their Sicilian apartment. It was well attended and so interesting. I have done some private wine tastings to share my knowledge of Sicilian wine. I am a Certified Italian Wine Specialist and have been to a huge number of wineries in Sicily. Those are great fun. I’ve worked with the client’s local shop to choose wine for them and they and their friends enjoy a night together with me on Zoom. Wine is fun and it is a big window into understanding Sicily, for sure. The other thing I’ve done is to create a YouTube channel about life in Sicily. Together with some colleagues and friends, I’ve made videos that are another window into Sicilian traditions and culture. It’s been a lot of fun and people both here and in Sicily are enjoying them immensely. I felt this would offer a broader reach than something with a small group. I’ve been a guest on a few podcasts for Untold Italy. Podcasts are great. Since walking has been a common pandemic activity, I think many people have turned to podcasts. You can escape in two ways, physically and virtually!
7. Can you share an interesting fact that not many people know about Sicily?
There are so many interesting facts because the island has been dominated by so many diverse peoples over millennia. Did you know that Sicily is roughly 100 miles north of Tunisia? Suddenly it’s easy to understand that enormous influence on the island. Take the fish market, for example. In Catania, it takes place 6 days a week from dawn until lunch time, the same as it has since the 900s and it is every bit a souk and the Arabs have had a huge influence on the food in Sicily, which some say is the best in all of Italy.
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