This Roman travel agency is highlighting undiscovered treasures.

MILAN — As it often happens in big cities, when a new hot spot opens in Milan, it quickly floods the social (and social media) scene, drawing socialites and the fashion crowd. Soon, the adrenaline wears off, until another restaurant, spa or store opens, taking the temporary spotlight and beginning the cycle again.

But there are those looking to avoid this fast-paced hype machine, people who are looking to explore uncharted territories and discover hidden gems that are just as appealing and Instagram-friendly as the latest fancy address.

In order to help, The Maptique, a boutique creative and travel agency, is stepping into the role of compass.

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Launched in 2018 by Agnese Violati and Paola Mapelli, the agency combines constant research and sophisticated taste to curate high-quality editorial content and travel guides that focus on lesser-known hot spots, design bespoke events for small groups, and develop tailor-made travel itineraries for private guests and hospitality companies.

The offering — alternative destinations and experiences — mirrors the founders’ own passion for traveling and scouting places across boutique hotels, little concept stores and indie art galleries. Both globetrotters with backgrounds in fashion at brands including Valentino, Alexander McQueen and La DoubleJ, Violati and Mapelli lead an all-female team of 10 that aims to promote authentic places and make high-end travel experiences accessible.

Paola Mapelli and Agnese Violati, founders of The Maptique.
Courtesy of The Maptique

After a rebranding, the agency now offers an even larger catalog of experiences that span from half-day adventures to weekend getaways, aimed at those interested in well-being, arts and crafts and culinary events.

There are tarot and ceramic workshops in Milan, croissant-baking classes and walking tours of indie art galleries around Paris, and boat trips through the Venice canals, or to discover artisans’ ateliers across the city’s surrounding islands. 

A ceramic workshop by The Maptique.
Courtesy of The Maptique

One of the most sought-after appointments is “The Food Creatives Club,” Mapelli says, a series where chefs from different backgrounds reinvent Italian cuisine for a group of strangers. Staged in cities like Rome or remote venues in the Italian countryside, these lunches or dinners are held in evocative locations traditionally closed to the public and involve a pool of creatives that develop dedicated flower arrangements and table designs.

“That’s what we want to continue to do this year as well: to strengthen the collaboration with these talents and open the doors to even more ateliers or host more dinners, cross-pollinating different worlds,” Violati says.

“There are experiences we saw abroad and we were inspired to bring here with our twist, others that we tried firsthand and wanted to share, or formats we created ourselves. In other cases, some businesses and talents have reached out to us to present their projects, too,” Mapelli says.

One of The Food Creatives Club events by The Maptique.
Courtesy of The Maptique

Experiences generally fall under two divisions: those scheduled for fixed days that 15 to 20 users can sign up for until the spots sell out, and those offered upon request, therefore following customers’ preferences in terms of timing.

The latter category include weekend getaways, trips to Lake Como or Lake Maggiore offering stays in charming old family villas, Vespa ride tours, picnics and wellness treatments; glamping immersed in the Sicilian natural landscape, combining yoga, meditation and local cooking classes; horseback riding in the Spanish countryside and relaxing in a rural home nestled in a 300-hectare estate; off-the-beaten-track tours in Athens, or luxury stays on the French Alps.

These destinations have been attracting a diverse, often international audience who are asking The Maptique’s team to create custom itineraries to gift or for solo travel, bachelorette and family trips, or honeymoons.

The Maptique website.
Courtesy of The Maptique

The Maptique has partnered with hotels to provide users discounts at dreamy locations including Villa Mabrouka in Tangeri, Morocco; Mona in Athens; Sussurro in Laisse, Mozambique; Hotel du Cloître in Arles, France, and Camp Kipwe in Damaraland, Namibia. Some Airbnb structures are also spotlighted, ranging from Casa Oaxaca in Mexico to Villa Anfitrión in Puntaneras, Costa Rica.

“The best part is always the research, both of locations and talents,” Violati says. “We look for authenticity above all, like hotels that you can sense were not built to chase trends.”

To further engage with users, a new membership program offers additional access to extensive city guides and premium content, such as interviews with creatives and artists sharing their tips, from Massimo Alba’s secret spots in Ischia to Licia Florio’s go-to places in Positano.

A downloadable city guide by The Maptique.
Courtesy of The Maptique

The group also sells downloadable travel guides for Rome, Amsterdam, Tokyo, Berlin, Paris, Copenhagen, Athens and Ibiza and other locations, priced between 8.50 euros to 16.50 euros, as well as limited-edition capsule collections from local creatives, brands, artisans and boutique hotels.

Items range from prints from three emerging photographers to ceramics developed with StudioBea; from jewelry by Istanbul-based brand Peracas to a capsule collection created with Apulian hotel Borgo Silentio and including printed pajama sets, dresses and accessories. Prices range from 30 euros and 400 euros.

Earrings from the capsule collection developed with Peracas.
Courtesy of The Maptique

The new initiatives have boosted The Maptique’s brand awareness and community-building, but also the business-to-business division, the company’s main source of revenue. Services span from itinerary creation for companies’ team building activities, press trips and events dedicated to VIP customers, to content production and art direction for luxury brands and digital strategies for small hotels looking to refresh their image. 

So far, the agency has put together a package of experiences for Bulgari and LuisaViaRoma’s top clients; designed dedicated city guides for Coccinelle and Vogue Italia during fashion week; created social media assets for a Rinascente project in Florence, and implemented online ceramics classes during COVID-19 that Artemest gifted to its employees.

La Foleia villa near Lake Maggiore, Italy.

These activities were boosted by “the great shift in the market that went from chasing products to looking for values, experiences and feelings in a brand,” Violati says.

“This is what has guided us since the beginning of the project. We realized that at the end of the day, it was that new skill you learned or that certain person you met during an event to make the difference,” she says.

“It all comes down to the idea of expressing a sense of belonging,” Mapelli adds. “We care about curating experiences and making people feel good in unconventional ways. Some of these activities might be trendy but there’s always a sense of curated simplicity and spontaneity we aim to deliver.”

Ceramics developed with StudioBea.
Courtesy of The Maptique

Now the founders’ mission is to strengthen all the different verticals of their offering with the ultimate mission of “becoming a reference point in all-things traveling.”

“The idea is to become a recognizable brand, one that people can associate with the guarantee of beautiful experiences, creative services and great flair,” says Mapelli, who aims to expand internationally both the business-to-consumer and B2B sides of the agency, starting with Paris, London and Germany. 

“We would like to establish offices and continue consultancy in other countries, as well as further expand the reach of our experiences abroad,” she says. “Then, why not? It would be nice to have an actual physical outpost one day: a sort of The Maptique hotel or residence,” she says with a smile.