Italia Dolce Vita caught plagiarizing our tours

plagiarism

ITALIA DOLCE VITA belongs in the Hall of Shame. The Florida-based tour operator claims to offer “Unique Travel Experience,” but how unique can a tour be when it’s plagiarized?

italiadolcevitaI discovered this after there was some confusion over our appointment at PETRA, a winery on the Tuscan coast. As the winery manager explained, a company with a similar name—Italia Dolce Vita—happened to have booked a visit there that very same day, befuddling him momentarily.

He hadn’t heard of them before, but I had. A couple of years back, I’d noticed their ads starting to appear in Wine Spectator, where we’d run classifieds since our company started in 2000. I remember thinking, ‘How unfortunate, that name. People might get us confused: La Dolce Vita Wine Tours. Italia Dolce Vita.

But we didn’t look closely at their website until that day at Petra.

Only then did we discover that they’d created an entire tour, ULTIMATE TUSCANY, by plagiarizing our website, word for word, cherry-picking from our TUSCAN WINE TREASURES and XTREME TUSCANY tours.

A few examples:

I write: Listen to Benedictine monks sing plainchant in Sant’ Antimo Abbey

They write: Listen to Benedictine monks sing plainchant in Sant’ Antimo Abbey

I write: Roll up your sleeves for a cooking lesson at a Chianti farmhouse

They write: Roll up your sleeves for a cooking lesson at a Chianti farmhouse

Except for a few words, the general description is identical as well:

I write:

If you’ve never been in Italy, this tour is for you. When people dream of Italy, it’s Tuscany in their mind’s eye: rolling hills punctuated with slender cypresses, quaint stone farmhouses bordered by lavender and rosemary, tidy vineyards flanking dense forests that seem ready to burst with Renaissance falconers on horseback.

It’s not a fiction.

Tuscany’s wine country is situated in some of the most gorgeous, pastoral, and carefully preserved countryside on earth. Here you’ll find wines of equal splendor. Gone are the days of the straw fiasco. Tuscan winemakers are now among the most forward-thinking and iconoclastic of Italian enologists, and today’s Chianti Classico, Brunello di Montalcino, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, and Super Tuscans are powerful, modern expressions that will surprise and delight even the most discerning wine drinkers.

They write:

Whether you have already been to Tuscany or it is your first time, this tour is for you. When people dream of Italy, it’s Tuscany in their mind with rolling hills, slender cypresses, quaint stone farmhouses bordered by lavender and rosemary, tidy vineyards flanking dense forests that seem ready to burst with Renaissance falconers.

Tuscany’s wine country is situated in some of the most gorgeous, pastoral, and carefully preserved countryside on earth. Here you’ll find splendid wines. Gone are the days of the straw fiasco. Tuscan winemakers are now among the most forward-thinking and iconoclastic of Italian enologists, and today’s Chianti Classico, Brunello di Montalcino, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, and Super Tuscans are powerful, modern expressions that will surprise and delight even the most discerning wine drinkers.

The day-by-day itinerary is also directly plagiarized. (Not coincidentally, nine of their other tours don’t even provide a day-by-day description.)

Every time they mention a winery, the description is lifted directly from our Tuscan Wine Treasures or Xtreme Tuscany itinerary pages.

As one example, an entire day in Chianti is plagiarized:

Ricasoli & The Birthplace of Chianti

America had Thomas Jefferson. Italy had multiple politicians with close ties to viticulture. In Tuscany, the most important was Bettino “Iron Baron” Ricasoli, Italy’s second Prime Minister and inventor of Chianti wine. We’ll visit Castello di Brolio, where the Ricasolis have been making wine since the 1100s. Walking through the magnificent gardens and on the castle’s crenulated walls, we’ll hear about the Iron Baron’s winemaking—and the legend of his ghost. Then we’ll taste their highly regarded Chiantis and Super Tuscan, and continue sampling over lunch at the winery’s Osteria del Castello.

The afternoon is devoted to the Baron’s cousin at Rocca di Montegrossi. Here Marco Ricasoli-Firidolfi diligently handcrafts some of the most elegant refined Chiantis you’ll ever find.

Dinner is in a tiny hamlet called Volpaia, meaning “place of foxes.” Here we’ll have family-style servings of homemade pasta, wild boar stew, and fabulous torta della nonna (cream tort with pinenuts).

Moreover, every winery on their tour just happens to be a winery that we visit. With 39 wineries in the Bolgheri DOC, 350 in Chianti Classico, over 200 in Montalcino, and 75 in Montepulciano, they have plenty of others to choose from. But they opted to copy our selections as well. This strikes me as lazy, unethical, and just as bad as plagiarizing my words.

I’m deeply offended on as a journalist. I’ve written professionally for 35 years, for everyone from the San Francisco Chronicle to Decanter to Columbia Journalism Review. By my book, plagiarism is a capital sin. And while writing copy for a tour website isn't high literature, they're still my words, for my tours. Not hers.

But I’m also wounded as a wine-tour operator. Susanna Wriston, president of Italia Dolce Vita, is making money on itineraries that my husband and I scouted, revised, improved, and fine-tuned over 16 years—ever since we started going to Chianti in 2000 and to the Maremma in 2003. She’s profiting from our labor.  That’s just not right.

I looked at the internet archive THE WAYBACK MACHINE and found that Ultimate Tuscany was a new tour for them this year. But I also found that in 2015 they offered a tour called Tuscany Wine Treasures. (Ours is called Tuscan Wine Treasures.)

The thing is, we would have been happy to collaborate and pay a commission. We do so with other travel agents and tour consolidators, like our friends at ACTIVE GOURMET HOLIDAYS.  But Susanna Wriston took without asking.

I twice asked Ms. Wriston to remove the plagiarized text. And to not steal again.

To no avail.

So I’m going public with my complaint, just to let people know what kind of unethical company Italia Dolce Vita is. Caveat emptor.

For shame, Susanna Wriston.