Our Journeys

Our Team


Alessandra Gardino Ranghiasci Montgomery

Born in Genoa, Italy, Alessandra was raised to be a world traveller. Her father, an active mountaineer from Piedmont, made sure that Alessandra grew up with a passion for nature, and knowledge of the Italian and French Alps. Her mother, heiress to the historical Central Italian palace Palazzo Ranghiasci, instilled in Alessandra a profound love of European arts and culture. These family traditions have allowed Alessandra to fully develop her passion for art, food, wine, archeology, and of course, adventure. During her years as a corporate executive in the Mediterranean’s competitive tourism industry, Alessandra harbored a dream of building a company that introduced curious, active travellers to diverse, fascinating cultures and art. In 2003, that dream became a reality with the creation of MG Expeditions, now Customized Journeys. Alessandra speaks Italian, French, Spanish, and English.

Benedetta Rappa Verona

Betta has been working side by side with Alessandra since 2010 and loves her job! She was born and raised in the Italian region of Piedmont. After graduating in Foreign Languages and Tourism Management from Università Cattolica in Milan, she moved to Oregon where she lived for nine years before deciding to settle back in her beautiful home country. Betta brings a bounty of knowledge to the team. She plays an active role in planning logistics for the tours all over Europe and beyond. Her love of travel and interacting with new people and cultures has also made her a coveted trip leader. Betta is passionate about sharing all the various aspects and peculiarities of her country, such as its cultural heritage and gourmet food and wine, to new and experienced travelers alike. Betta speaks Italian, English, German, and French.

Melissa Egizio Slechta

Melissa was born in the US and spent many summers traveling to the Abruzzo region of Italy to spend time with her grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. Her love of travel started at an early age with trips throughout North America and Europe. Melissa has degrees in Political Science, Italian Studies and Human Resources Management. After many years in the corporate and consulting world as a Human Resources professional, Melissa began pursuing her other passion of travel by joining the Customized Journeys team. She brings to the team a strong background in customer service and business strategy. At Customized Journeys Melissa's focus is on new client development. Melissa speaks English and Italian.

Paola Zandegiacomo

Paola was born in the Veneto region of Italy to a very large Italian family with 5 brothers and sisters. She moved to the US a few years ago with her family and loves exploring her new home in the Pacific Northwest. Paola has a passion for gourmet food & wine and is a skilled home pastry chef. Her Italian roots and impeccable fashion sense make her an expert to our clients on European culture. At Customized Journeys, Paola's focus is on bookkeeping, logistics and customer relations. Her attention to detail and amazing organizational skills make her an invaluable resource to our team. Paola speaks Italian and English.

Jennifer O'Brien

With deep family roots in Italy, many of Jennifer’s favorite childhood memories involve lively celebrations filled with wonderful homemade food and wine, all set to the music of her grandpa’s accordion. As an adult, Jennifer’s greatest passion has been exploring Sannicandro di Bari, Italy—the homeland of her grandparents—with her own family. This interest in her Italian heritage has fueled her love of Italian culture. She spends much of her free time mastering and enjoying Italian cooking, language, wine, and local history. Jennifer’s expertise in sales, marketing and fundraising, and her love of all things Italy, make her an indispensable member of the Customized Journeys team. In addition to her work at Customized Journeys, Jennifer also volunteers with her children's schools.

Monica Vilhauer

A native of Portland, OR, avid traveler, and all-around wordsmith, Monica enjoys researching and writing about adventures to off-the-beaten-path hideaways, and learning all she can about different cultures and traditions. With a background as a philosophy professor, she is always interested in deepening the experiential learning aspect of travel and exposure to different ways of life. Monica is particularly motivated by projects that bring travel and education together. She has recently created an innovative philosophy retreats program that works to connect ideas to lived experience, and focuses on philosophy as a way of life. Ask her about it!