Meet the Member: Filippo Magnani

Italian member and wine communicator, Filippo Magnani reflects on 25 years of wine tourism in Tuscany in this Meet the Member interview with Amanda Barnes. Named after the Etruscan God of Wine, Fufluns, his tourism agency is a leader in the region.

Inspired by the booming wine tourism industry in Napa Valley during the 1990s, Filippo Magnani recognized Italy’s untapped potential and sought to elevate the wine touring experience in his native country. In July 1999, he founded Fufluns Wine Travel Concierge, pioneering the path as the first Italian wine travel planner dedicated exclusively to Italy’s rich wine heritage.


You are celebrating 25 years of your company, Fufluns Wine Travel Concierge, which specializes in personalised wine tours and experiences throughout Italy. Can you share a bit about when and how you started Fufluns?

Upon graduating with a degree in Hotel and Tourism Management from the University of Economics in Florence, followed by an MBA in Hospitality Management from Brighton University, UK, I worked as an F&B Manager in several luxury hotel chains, aspiring to become a hotel general manager.

In 1996, a visit to Napa Valley sparked the idea of creating a wine travel agency in Tuscany, my homeland. I traveled extensively through premier wine regions worldwide, and in 1999, at the age of 26, I founded Fufluns, a travel concierge company specializing in customized wine tours in Italy for wine professionals and enthusiasts. Soon, I immersed myself into the world of wine, earning a degree from Le Conseil Interprofessionnel du Vin de Bordeaux, France in 2001, followed by the WSET Diploma in 2006. 


How has the landscape of wine tourism in Italy evolved over the last 25 years? 

In the 1990s, wine tourism was not yet recognised as a distinct market segment in Italy. International visitors came for the art and history, for beautiful cities, the sea, and mountains, and for business trips, and while they may have been attracted to Italian cuisine, olive oil, and wine, very few wineries were open for tastings at that time. 

Little by little, the Italian wine sector recognised the potential for wine tourism. Organisations like Movimento Turismo del Vino and Le Donne del Vino (Women of Wine) started promoting winery visits, sommelier associations started courses for wine lovers, Italian wine consortia began to market their regions as wine travel destinations, and media attention grew around gastro-tourism. National tourism campaigns highlighted Italian wine, food, and lifestyle, while wineries realized the benefits of promoting, building their brands, and selling directly to estate visitors. 

Today, wine estates both large and small, from famous names to hidden gems, have opened their doors, and many have invested in visitors by building deluxe wine resorts. From Trentino Alto Adige in the Alps all the way to the boot of Italy in Sicily, wine travellers now receive a fantastic welcome with different experiences at each winery. 


What strategies have you employed to develop and sustain a successful path for Fufluns over the past 25 years?

From the beginning, I have consistently invested time and effort into expanding my know-how and expertise in wine, wine regions, hospitality, and tourism. My strategy has involved extensive travel throughout Italy to deepen my understanding of these terroirs, meet wine producers, and connect with local people and communities. Simultaneously, I have wholeheartedly immersed myself in the wine world and continuously strive to learn as much as possible to keep up with its vast information and ever-evolving nature. My guests, team, and industry peers expect well-informed responses and advice, so staying knowledgeable in both wine and hospitality is crucial. Another important aspect that has been a must for me has been to build personal relationships based on trust, honesty, and professionalism, often leading to lasting friendships. 


How have your clients evolved from the inception of Fufluns to the present day?

When I began my journey at the age of 26, the concept of organising trips centred around wine was virtually unheard of. The first two to three years were very challenging, with me conducting daily tours in my Alfa Romeo around Tuscany, accompanied by families from Germany and the Netherlands following me in their cars. At that time, clients paid 35,000 Lira (approx. €18 per person) for a three-hour guided tour, which did not yield much profit and attracted clients with limited interest in wine. However, as my knowledge of wine grew and I established relationships with both premium producers and smaller wineries, as well as making connections with wine writers and schools, my clientele began to change. I started to attract more experienced travellers, who were passionate about wine. 

Today, I oversee and coordinate a team of 10 talented individuals – all holding WSET or Master Sommelier certifications – who cater to private wine collectors, oenophiles, wine auction donors, groups of wine professionals, and wine clubs throughout the year. 


What’s new from you in 2024?

I’m launching a quarterly newsletter, ‘A Journey Through Italian Wines’. It features captivating insights into Italy’s wine destinations, exclusive interviews with key personalities in the wine and hospitality industry, detailed wine tasting notes, and selected excerpts from my personal blog, Tales Behind The Wines. This newsletter aims to further enrich the understanding and appreciation of Italian wine culture among enthusiasts and professionals worldwide. 

Throughout 2024, I will personally lead tours for various wine club groups and private wine collectors across Italy. These tours, featuring long-standing partners and loyal clients. I’m also hoping to strengthen our expert team.

Lastly, I will participate in a charity auction as part of The Golden Vines Awards next October in Madrid. For the occasion, I’ve created a special auction item: ‘VIP Experience – Discovering the Iconic Bolgheri’, in which I will personally accompany six passionate donors on a visit to the historic estates of this famed Tuscan region. All proceeds will be donated entirely to the Gérard Basset Foundation.