Designing your dream vacation is not an easy process, but it is a fantastically fun one. There are so many parts to making your holiday perfect, from transfers to tours, and the people that we rely on to lead you around the Mediterranean are our “faces” on the ground. Our tour guides, drivers and local experts are all colleagues and in many cases, friends, that we know very well. We are certain that they are the absolute best to introduce our clients to their destination, and they are essential to our trip-planning process. As Italy has moved into “phase 2”, we are all itching to get back to work! This is especially true of our charming and passionate tour guides and drivers in Italy. We put together some fun and interesting questions for a few of these special colleagues, this week from Tuscany, Rome, and the Amalfi coast area, to help you get to know them a little better (for those of you who haven’t met them already) and for them to share some of their expert tips and amazing stories.
1. What do you love about being a tour guide in Italy? Why did you decide to become one?
Tony (above), our sweet, spectacular local who is an expert tour guide in Italy (specifically the Naples and Pompeii area): When I was only 13 I started helping my father at bar (he was the owner). Our bar was right by the ruins of Pompeii – I had so many experiences meeting tourist groups and local guides doing their job and I thought it was so fascinating! Seeing them work was my inspiration to become a guide.
Tommaso, one of our expert, local tour guides in Italy and drivers in the Tuscany region: I remember when I first got interested in creating my company and its tours – it was because of the happiness and the joy I could see in the eyes of the customers every time they came back from a visit to some parts of the Tuscany or from a wine tasting. I felt that I wanted to be part of that “story”, of this reality. I started by buying a car and getting a license to bring our customers around the Tuscan region first and the rest of the country shortly after. Little did I know, the history of my own country was so poignant with stories and tales and amazing facts which helped even me understand why we have this peculiar food and historic tradition in Italy. So the first step (as I was doing my very first tours so many years ago) was learning all of it at the same time my customers did..
2. What is a destination or site that you love taking guests to?
Francesco, our charming and engaging local tour guide and driver in Italy, specifically the Amalfi coast region: I could say that one of my favorite sites is Paestum. A bit off the beaten path. A place where you can combine the Greek ruins from the 5th/6th Century BC, to a visit of the buffalo mozzarella factories and a taste of its delicious produces; but I particularly love to go on a “family tree hunt”. I enjoy going to that little town where my clients’ grandparents came from, and left about 100 years ago. I find fascinating both the energy of those Italian Americans wanting to search their roots, as I find genuine and true the realities I find in those small remote and less visited villages.
Sara, one of our special local tour guides in Italy and history experts in magical Rome (above): I do like to enter the archaeological areas where at first glance nothing is left. But then… my job comes on stage… and people start seeing what doesn’t exist anymore: buildings, temples, markets, ancestors speaking latin…
3. What is your favorite memory with a client?
Gina, our incredible food and wine expert (this woman can do everything!) tour guide in Rome (pictured below): My favorite moments revolve around making connections and bringing people together. One that comes to mind is when I was with a family whose daughter was extremely interested in food, coffee and baking. During our tour she brought a book from a well known coffee bar and bakery in Rome. I was able to track down the owner of this shop within an hour. He met us to talk with her and sign her book. She was over the moon happy.
Francesco, Amalfi Coast: There are plenty of great moments with my clients, but going back to the “family tree hunt”, I vividly remember that day I spent with Italian American clients from Chicago. I drove them to a small town inland. We started to explore the town their family apparently was from. I asked questions to locals. Got directions by the older men playing cards by a cafe in the main piazza, gathering info from their precious memories. At some point we thought we had found the part of their family still in town, and when my clients were starting to make friends with them, an older little man pulled my jacket and whispered to me: “it’s not them! I know where their family lives. Follow me!”. So we did, and finally we had the prove that was the real family when they pulled out the same old family picture that my clients were carrying with them from the ’50s. The surprise moment was priceless.
4. What is your recommendation for the best time of year to visit your city or town and why?
Tommaso, Tuscany: “In medio stat virtus” the Latins used to say – and I agree with them. The best moment to visit this country is when you have good enough weather and a reasonable amount of other visitors around you. Sometimes March and April are amazing months, they can be a little rainy but the towns can still be enjoyable, not too crowded and therefore more “livable” as locals. The beginning of October is also amazing, you can see the end of the season (with not too many “warm weather seekers” around) and at the same time enjoy the grape harvest or the olive trees, ready to give us their amazing juice.
Gina, Rome: The best time to visit Rome is the start of May or October because the weather is beautiful, mostly sunny days and cool evenings. Sites are less crowded, giving visitors a chance to see Rome like a local.
Tony, Naples and Pompeii: For me, the end of April or September
Francesco, Amalfi Coast: I personally like April when things reopen from a sleepy winter. I enjoy the wisteria, the jasmine, the cherry trees, all blooming and that feeling of Spring with warmer temps, but not hot.
Sara, Rome: Of course the best moment to come to Rome is November: no pushing crowds, no rain, mild weather, still warm sun.
5. What you find most exciting, unique or inspiring about your city or town?
Tony, Pompeii and Naples: In Naples – the history with monuments, the local people, the unique Amalfi coastline with it’s blue sea, the natural perfumes of the earth.
Gina, Rome: Rome is an open air museum. Around every corner there are layers of history, art, architecture, culture and lets not forget food to be discovered. You need a lifetime to discover a fraction of the “Eternal City”.
6: Which place do you love to visit?
Tommaso, Tuscany: I love to visit the regions which are less “on the map”. Umbria (above picture), the Marche and all those amazing hot springs not many people talk about yet still close to Chianciano – as well as the Terme di Saturnia
Sara, Rome: In my private moments, when I have my day off, I like to go to the Roman Castles, a series of small villages (including the summer residence of the Pope) on the Alban Hills, 30 km far from Rome where I can breathe fresh air, deeply immersed in history, food and wine!
7. If you could give a tour to anyone (from the past or present or future), who would it be?
Tommaso, Tuscany: I’d like to give a tour to Greta Thunberg’s kids, hoping what we would be able to show them would not be too different from what we can actually enjoy now. Hoping this amazing treasure -our country- and so many others, won’t be spoiled by the oblivion our common intellect has fallen into, with regard to the preservations of these “fleeting” resources.
Francesco, Amalfi Coast: If I could give a tour to someone from the present it may be Jerry Seinfeld, just because I love his shows, I have followed all his episodes of “Comedians in cars getting coffee”, and we have some good coffee around Napoli. If I could give a tour to someone from the past, that would be my dad, who used to drive me around in an old FIAT 128, and passed away before I even started this job.
8. What is your favorite restaurant in your area?
Gina, Rome: It depends on what food I want to eat – Da Cesare for Roman food and Seu Iluminati for pizza.
Sara, Rome: “Osteria de Memmo” for sure, a typical Roman tradition cooking and a typical Roman owner!
Tommaso, Tuscany: Don’t miss Gargani in Florence. Don’t miss being entertained and served by my good friend Ivan and from all their staff. Don’t miss having the story of Giuliano being told to you. And definitely don’t miss the “tagliolini Magnifico” pasta!
Tony, Naples and Pompeii: a vinery house in Pompeii
Francesco, Amalfi Coast: There is so many. I’ll pick one: “Il BUCO” in Sorrento.