Meet Alessio Virgili and Andrea Cosimi, partners in love and entrepreneurship who met at the ripe age of 18 and 21 respectively. They are the founders of Sonders&Beach, the parent company of Quiiky, an LGBTQ travel agency in Italy, which specializes in providing unique experiences to queer travelers across the globe who want to visit Italy.
When Virgili and Cosimi founded Quiiky, the concept of an LGBTQ travel agency didn’t exist. Early on in their relationship, the pair were planning a vacation. They were concerned about their safety and acceptance at their destination traveling as a gay couple. At the time, there were no openly LGBTQ travel agency to be found, and it was difficult to find information about LGBTQ tourism. As natural entrepreneurs, the pair decided that this market vacuum needed to be filled.
LGBTQ Travel Agency Interview: Quiiky Founders Alessio Virgili and Andrea Cosimi
We sat down with the partners to get a deeper look at why they decided to start an LGBTQ travel agency in Italy. Here’s edited excerpts from the conversation.
QMagazine: Can you describe in your own words why it is important to show the world that Italy is a welcoming place for LGBTQ+ travelers?
Alessio Virgili:Italy has always been a welcoming country: because of its position in the Mediterranean, its mild climate and natural biodiversity, it has always welcomed people from the rest of Europe and from all over the world. Then its commercial vocation along centuries, the strong Greek cultural influences – by which any guest is a gods’ gift – have deeply influenced the Italian attitude to welcoming.
QMagazine: Can you tell me a little bit about your personal journey and the relationship between the two of you before starting your LGBTQ Travel Agency? How did you find each other and decide to go into business together?
Alessio Virgili: Andrea and I have been together for 19 years, now. We met when I was 18 and he was 21, in a mainstream bar in Rome. Both of us were there with their friends who were not acquainted with our sexual orientations. None of us had a love story before. We immediately got along well, together and after just one year we were living and working together.
I was still at school, but with my father’s signature, I was able to fund my first business: a cooperative of lifeguards, for the Latium beaches. In the meantime, Andrea had to leave for the mandatory service in the Navy Corps…but, my mother employed him in the cooperative, so that he did not leave.
Our ‘business journey’ together started.
Building An LGBTQ Travel Agency in Italy
QMagazine:How did the two of you decide to start the organization Sonders&Beach?
Alessio Virgili: After one year of work in Rome, dealing with heavy bureaucracy and competitors’ threats, we decided to leave for Milan, for a new business adventure. We were very young but, luckily, we found support in institutions, banks and customers.
When we were in Milan, we decided to shift our business from lifeguards to restaurants and hotels. We succeeded to get our first customer, a restaurant owner on the Milanese Navigli. He trusted those two young chaps and put a cheque in their hands. Sonders&Beach was born.
QMagazine: For those who aren’t familiar with Quiiky, can you describe what it is and why you decided to start the company?
Andrea Cosimi: Perhaps it’s interesting to write about the origin of Quiiky LGBTQ Travel Agency. When we were younger, we decided to organize a vacation together and were looking for destinations and hotels friendly enough to accept the way we are and our love story. It was extremely difficult to find information on line or at travel agencies’…we understood that this market vacuum needed to be filled up. Quiiky LGBTQ Travel Agency was founded.
A Beacon of LGBTQ Travel for Italy
QMagazine: What is one thing you want the world to know about Italy?
Alessio Virgili: This is a very important message to us: we want to say that homosexuality is not immoral or an expression of modern life perversion, as many believe. We claim that homosexuality has to do only with love, with humanity, that it has always existed, since the man’s origins!
Andrea Cosimi: Our ‘Untold History Tours’ are exactly the proof of this: you discover how many artists expressed their same-sex love by creating masterpieces, how their feelings influenced their harassed lives. LGBTQ+ Italian history is unique, not to be found elsewhere! Milan, Rome, Florence, Naples, Venice, Taormine, Turin….you discover the beauty of homosexual artists and culture in these towns and many others. Not by chance that an Oscar-winning movie such ‘Call Me by Your Name’ (we have a dedicated tour on it!) was shot in Italy.
An Invitation to You!
Now that you know the incredible story of Quiiky’s founders and their mission to provide LGBTQ+ travelers with safe, tailored, incredible experiences in Italy, why not plan a trip of your own? Browse some amazing multi-day tour options available on Quiiky.com/EN, see Untold History tours you can book in many cities throughout Italy, or book a tailor-made tour crafted just for your taste.
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About Quiiky Magazine
Italian LGBTQ+ Travel & Lifestyle Portal
Quiiky Magazine is the premier Italian lifestyle and travel portal dedicated to LGBTQ+ travelers, featuring articles on Italian destinations, cuisines, wines, art, history and culture.