Fabrizio Ghilardi started Socompa Adventure Travel in November 2004 as a lark – with a website, a 4×4, and not much else.
In listening to him talk about the early years of Socompa, Fabrizio seemed destined for adventure. Yes, he had a good job in Italy, but his imagination kept taking him far away from Milan, way to the other side of the Atlantic Ocean. As he tells us in his My Travel Tales podcast, at 35-years-old, Fabrizio was fit and healthy and wanting to travel far from home, alone, just to see if he could do it. He had a photo he had taken during a previous trip to Argentina, in Ushuaia on the southernmost tip, of a 4×4 truck. Staring at that photo, he thought how wonderfully free it would be to travel around Argentina in his own 4×4. So, in 2002, he acted on his dream and told his business partner and friend he was taking a three-month leave of absence (which soon became rather permanent). And, with that, he headed to Salta, a city in Argentina’s north, and began to explore the high desert of the central Andes and a region known as the Puna in the northwest.
Before long, many of his friends from Italy began wondering where he was and started visiting him in Salta. According to Fabrizio, each told him this region was outstanding, unique, amazing…. And that inspired Fabrizio to create a website and launch his company, Socompa, just to see what would happen and other people would come. Almost immediately, he started to receive bookings wanting to go with him on 4×4 adventures into the Puna. Although he was getting bookings, he still did not yet see this as a job really.
In 2005, he asked Valentina (she was an architect and living in London) to marry him and move to Salta. And at that point, he tells us, he knew he needed to get very serious about his new adventure – no more joking or playing around. He needed a job and Socompa was going to be it.
By 2008, Fabrizio and Valentina converted the family house that Valentina had designed and built in Salta into a boutique hotel and named it Finca Valentina. The hotel offers breakfast and dinner with recipes that combine Italian themes and flavors with Argentinian ingredients.
Then, in 2010, Socompa began managing and operating a remote hotel in El Penon where many of its tours spend at least one night. The hotel, Hosteria El Penon, is in a very remote and small community where the electricity is on only from 5 p.m. to midnight each day. Fabrizio is most proud of the fact that this hotel — really, an oasis –provides jobs for locals.
Today, Socompa Adventure Travel is one of the premier adventure travel companies operating in northwestern Argentina, and provides jobs to over 30 Argentinians who each have a passion for sharing what is unique and special about their region. And Fabrizio Ghilardi? He and Valentina, along with their two children, now live back in Italy, meaning he’s traveling every two weeks to Argentina, his second home. The lark got serious, successful and fun too!
And while he’s thought about launching a version of Socompa in Italy, leading 4×4 adventures there, it’s still only an idea, in search of a partner willing to help run it.