Stellavision Travel, a company dedicated to inclusive and empowering international group travel experiences for women, transgender and non-binary people, recently announced a new, size-inclusive edition of their signature Italy tour in collaboration with Tess Holliday. Holliday started the Eff Your Beauty Standards movement and in 2015 became the first model above a size 20 to land a major modeling contract.

Stellavision Travel’s founder, Zoe Shapiro, says her company is part of a personal and professional mandate. She identifies as plus-size and says she’s always felt othered by her experience of being in a larger body. I spoke with Shapiro about what makes size-inclusive travel unique and about the new collaboration with Holliday.

“What makes a tour size-inclusive is the knowledge that your tour organizer has adjusted every detail of your trip with your needs in mind as well as knowing that you’ll be in the company of like-minded travelers who share a lived experience,” begins Shapiro, who jokingly refers to herself as a combination of a shade vampire, hydration police, and air conditioner connoisseur. Shapiro says that this includes things like ensuring restaurant seating doesn’t have restrictive arm rests that might make trying to sit and enjoy a meal difficult or impossible, as well as making sure she’s doing more than merely offering the lesser version of an experience that was designed for someone in a smaller body. “I cannot change the world. Some external factors and barriers will remain beyond my ability to affect. But in obvious and inadvertent ways, I’m finessing all the details with this (plus-size) audience in mind. Travel should be a source of joy and discovery, not anxiety about fitting in,” says Shapiro.

Holliday will lead a special edition of Stellavision’s Secret Southern Italy tour. The tour itinerary kicks off in Rome with an aperitivo and a group dinner where travelers meet one another, their tour guide and the attending photographer over a traditional Roman feast. The following day promises a slow-paced walking tour through Rome’s most historic neighborhood to learn the role that women played in local monuments and moments followed by a private performance from Rome-based Soprano, Courtney Mills, and a dinner party in the secret garden of a women-owned restaurant. The group moves onto Matera in the Basilicata region for a tour of the vineyards of a female vintner. The tour promises “an unforgettable journey of self-love and exploration in the stunning landscapes of Southern Italy.”

“I looked up to Tess Holliday even before I knew her name and impact, using her #effyourbeautystandards hashtag on personal posts,” says Shapiro. “To be collaborating with one of the body positivity movement’s pioneering activists, and hosting her on her first trip to Italy, is a milestone for Stellavision, an indication of the growing community we’re building that affirms all bodies deserve to be celebrated, catered to and experience the joy of a behind-the-scenes, beachside, Italian vacation.”

Holiday was not available for comment, but of the collaboration Shapiro shared, “We’re incredibly proud to partner with Tess to offer an experience that celebrates every body, inviting women to connect deeply with themselves, each other, and the rich culture of Italy.”

Of the plus-size travel gap, written about by outlets like the New York Times, Shapiro says it’s a product of travel professionals protecting their contacts and the fact that not many tour operators consider the needs of people in bigger bodies. This affects individual travel as well as group travel. “For instance if the itinerary says there is a walking tour, I know I certainly would have many additional questions,” says Shapiro. “Does a 3-hour walking tour mean 3 hours on my feet? Does it cover 1 kilometer in 3 hours or 5 kilometers? Is the terrain flat like New York or hilly like Lisbon? And who on earth will I be experiencing it with? Can I expect to slow down the group?”

These are normal questions for many travelers, but they often go unasked and unanswered because of things like weight-based and mobility-based stigma. “Stellavision removes those questions both by building programming that is supportive of people in bigger bodies and being completely transparent about what to expect, in order for our travelers to be empowered and confident in the experience,” says Shapiro. “Knowing precisely what conditions to expect allows travelers to self select which experiences and tours are right for them.”

“In a world where so many options aren’t available to plus-size people, from clothing we want to buy to travel that isn’t inclusive, I want to create an experience of Italy that doesn’t simply offer access but has items on the itinerary that are available only to them. From our bespoke walking tour in Rome to a private opera concert, these things are just for us, for once,” says Shapiro.

Founded in 2021, Stellavision Travel offers all-inclusive adventures designed for women, nonbinary, and transgender travelers. With a focus on small groups and authentic experiences, Stellavision connects travelers to Italy and beyond with the goal of fostering empowerment and community. The final few spots on Tess’s tour (July 27 – Aug 3) are still available to book. The company also just announced their newest size inclusive route, a culinary themed autumn tour with Emiko Davies, who has been vocal about size inclusivity from a mother’s perspective.

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