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.

After graduating, Alessandra became a corporate executive in the Mediterranean’s competitive tourism industry. There, she helped to implement diverse tourism programs in Southern Europe, and other locations as far as the Caribbean Sea. From the very beginning of her career, however, Alessandra harbored a dream of building a company that introduced curious, active travellers to diverse, fascinating cultures and some of the world’s most amazing art.  That dream became a reality in 2003 with the creation of MG Expeditions, now Customized Journeys. With 15 years of experience in the customized travel industry and a deep knowledge of European culture, Alessandra is well equipped to lead travellers on tailor-made, discovery journeys that are simply unforgettable.

Alessandra speaks Italian, French, Spanish, and English.


Benedetta Rappa Verona

Born and raised in Biella, Piedmont, “Betta” joined forces with Customized Journeys in 2010. A lover of food, wine, and Italian culture, Betta brings a bounty of knowledge to our team. She is always willing to exchange old family recipes and share her favorite red wines from Piedmont and authentic tomato sauces. Betta’s easy nature and deep compassion for others make her loved by everyone she travels with. At University, she studied foreign languages and tourism management. She now manages the logistics of Customized Journey’s Southern Europe tours. Her love of travel and interacting with new people and cultures has also kept her as a coveted trip leader. Betta speaks German, Italian, English, and French.

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, and she is working with us on projects that enhance the experience of attending academic conferences abroad. She has also 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!

Laura Pagano

Now in her 7th year with Customized Journeys, Laura has become an irreplaceable member of our team. Caring, compassionate, and all around fun, everybody loves Laura. It’s not uncommon for our travelers to be in tears after their trip ends and it’s time to say goodbye to lovely Laura. Laura studied languages and literature at Rome University and later completed a master’s degree in tourism business management. Deeply passionate about her home country of Italy, Laura has a remarkable knowledge of its history and a deep love of its culture. Laura speaks Italian, English, French, and German.

Anna Melchiori Ranghiasci

Born in Italy, Anna’s family relocated to Peru shortly after her birth. Traveling from Europe to South America by boat, their trek to Peru was an adventure in itself. Anna spent much of her childhood traveling in the mountains of South America with her father, the late Marquis Giorgio Melchiori Ranghiasci. Her passion for art began when she helped to restore the ancient paintings in her family’s historical palace, Palazzo Ranghiasci in Central Italy. She then went on to study mosaic restoration and owned her own art restoration lab for many years. Anna now works as an art appraiser and has also spent much of her time on archeology digs, particularly in Peru. The mother of Customized Journeys co-founder and director, Alessandra, Anna lends her art knowledge to our expeditions as an art and archeology consultant. Anna speaks Italian, French, English, Spanish, and German.

Rick Montgomery

A travel industry veteran, Rick has lived, worked, and travelled in over 75 countries. After completing his degree in International Studies at the University of Washington, Rick set out for Beijing, where he studied Mandarin Chinese. He organized his first independent expedition in 1992, during which he led a small group of Americans over Vietnam’s heavily fortified Chinese border. The experience led to a career leading expeditions and travel magazine writing. In addition to his position as consultant on all things Asia to Customized Journeys, Rick is the founder and executive director of Globalroots.org, an international children’s charity. Rick speaks English, Mandarin Chinese, and Italian.

New website coming soon!

Hi Friends & Travelers,

Big changes to our website are on the way this year! At times, our website might be down or some pages may be “under construction”. If you have any questions on itineraries or other materials, feel free to email us at info@customizedjourneys.com. We can send you full copies of itineraries and answer any other questions you may have.

Looking foward to seeing you on an upcoming or future trip!!

The Customized Journeys Team