Feature: Young Italian company offers to bring Italy to your doorstep

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ROME, Nov. 8 (Xinhua) --You are keen to experience Italy but cannot travel there due to global COVID-19 restrictions? There is absolutely no need to despair, according to Ines Di Franco, founder and chief executive of Milan-based company Ventuno, which has come up with innovative ways to bring what is best about Italy to your doorstep.

Ventuno is one of around 100 Italian companies participating in the ongoing China International Import Expo (CIIE), which runs from Nov. 5 to 10 in Shanghai.

"What we offer is an immersive, complete experience that appeals to all five senses," Di Franco told Xinhua.

"If someone wants to come to Italy but cannot, this is the next best thing."

The company's name translates to "Twenty-one" -- an homage to the 20 Italian regions that make up one nation.

Ventuno's main product line is a series of "boxes" that seek to deliver the experience of a before-dinner drink in Italy's Piedmont, a dinner in Sicily, or dessert in Tuscany.

There are a dozen different options available. Each box contains local, sustainably-produced delicacies, ranging from high-end dried pasta and sauces to cured meat and preserved vegetables, and hand-picked wine and beer, each focusing on one specific region.

But what sets Ventuno apart from other services selling top-quality gourmet items is the virtual-reality component, which allows customers to experience the sights, sounds, and culture of the region they selected.

"So far we're the only company offering this kind of complete experience to customers," Di Franco said.

The company was founded in 2019, just before the start of the coronavirus pandemic -- with no premonition of what would unfold during the coming months. But it has done well despite the difficult start.

Ventuno is too young of a company to talk about annual growth rates, but Di Franco said there are months when sales double from the previous month.

Before the pandemic, Chinese visitors represented one of the fastest-growing countries of origin for tourists coming to Italy. But this all changed with the pandemic.

Di Franco said the company is looking to fill that gap as much as possible. Already, she said, the vast majority of Ventuno's sales come from China.

But she still sees a lot of room for growth, which is why the company is taking part in CIIE.

"For us, CIIE is the perfect event coming along at the perfect time," said Di Franco, who has been to China multiple times but could not travel to the Shanghai expo due to travel restrictions.

As with any young company, Ventuno is still working out some logistical and supply challenges, but Di Franco is confident that the future looks bright.

In addition to efforts to expand Ventuno's market in the world's second-largest economy, Di Franco also hopes to find partners that can add value to the company's existing product line.

What does she expect over the coming months and years? Di Franco said she doesn't want to look too far ahead.

"Making a mark in a market as complex as China is not easy and I know it won't happen quickly," she said.

"For now, I would like to keep selling good products, learn more about the Chinese market, and, hopefully, I'll be able to attend CIIE in person in 2022." Enditem

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