MEET OUR GUIDES: Northern Italy
Planning the perfect, tailor made vacation is a multi-faceted process. From the moment we first speak to that second you step off the plane, we are with you every step of the way creating your dream vacation. Unfortunately, we don’t get to meet all of you personally. But the people guiding you, driving you, hiking with you and showing you around this magical country are an extension of us. Our tour guides and drivers are people we have known for years (even decades), hand selected by us to work with our clients because we know that they are the absolute best.
Though our national quarantine here in Italy is slowly being lifted and rules relaxed, our tour guides and drivers are all still standing still, eager to get back to work and share their knowledge and passion for their home with our clients. We put together some fun and interesting questions for a few of these special tour guides, this week from Northern Italy, 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.
What do you love about being a tour guide? Why did you decide to become one?
Rita, our fantastic local tour guide and botany expert from Lake Como: I decided to become a guide as I live in one of the most beautiful places in the world. I wanted to share this beauty with other people. It also gives me the opportunity to better know my area from a cultural, historical and botanical point of view.
Sabrina, one of our wonderful expert local tour guides in Venice: I have been working as a guide for almost 20 years. Before that, I used to work as a group coordinator. I took Italian tourists abroad, foreign tourists around Italy and ran events all over the world. My so called previous career exposed me to many different cultures, countries and people. At the time I use to study anthropology of tourism and philosophy. Therefore, I was able to observe my surroundings from the privileged point of view of professional guest/host. Becoming a tour guide was the natural evolution of all of this, with the ultimate task of trying to help cultures meet.
What I love about it is giving myself and my clients the opportunity of stepping back, observe, understand and appreciate what is different. I learnt with time that even the most awkward aspects of another culture can at least be respected if you see it in the right perspective:. To me that is the historical/anthropological approach. So, to wrap it up, what I love about being a guide is helping people meet and appreciate each other.
2. What is a destination or site that you most enjoy taking guests?
Daniela, our amazing art historian and tour guide in Florence: Besides Florence’s must sees, places that they might miss without doing a private guided tour, like the church of S.Trinita. The paintings there really take you to XVth century Florence. I also adore the church of S. Felicita, to see a bit of the secret passage-way the Medici family used to move around town unseen. And, if there is the opportunity, enjoying together a view of the city from a terrace, like the one of the Innocenti Museum Café. It is enchanting!
Rita, Lake Como: My speciality is botany so what I really love to visit with my guests are gardens. I love flowers, plants and vegetation. Lake Como is full of beautiful botanical gardens. When we arrive to visit them by private boat, which lets us first enjoy the view of them from the lake.
3. What is your best memory or favorite moment with a client?Loredana, our spectacular local expert for the Cinque Terre and the Eastern Riviera of Liguria: I have so many beautiful moments with clients to remember. I helped to organize a few surprises for a special birthdays during my tours, even romantic proposals. I remember very well a wonderful couple from California that chose the Cinque Terre, the walk of Love, to declare their love. Another time, I was in Portofino with another beautiful family from US. While I was explaining the Church of Saint George up to the top of the village, I saw a very charming and very famous man walking up to the panoramic point with his beautiful wife and his staff . This man was Andrea Bocelli. He was preparing his concert for the next day. He was really very kind and the family had a special photo with him overlooking beautiful Portofino. These are only some of the hundreds of unique moments that I preserve in my heart.Sabrina, Venice: In over 20 years of guiding, I have met people from all over, of different ages and cultural backgrounds. I like to recall 2 different experiences here. The first with a young boy (11 yrs old) who was so passionate about history. while walking through the museum of the Doge’s Palace, he couldn’t help asking me all sorts of questions. We ventured through Medieval passages and learned mysterious stories. It was fun being with him and trying to make difficult ideas easy, with the appropriate language and the correct images. The second experience happened in a gold leaf workshop. Here my clients and I learned about the tradition they had inherited. In the elegant moves of the artisans, one could see centuries of experience. We spent time with the family, learning about the difficulties in trying to stay in business in this busy world we live in.
4. When is the best time of year to visit your destination and why?Rita, Lake Como: From April till November people can reach my Lake Como. If they do not like humidity I do suggest April and the later part of the season such as end September and October, however.Loredana, Liguria: The best time to visit the Cinque Terre on my opinion is from April to July and from September to end of October. August can be really too hot.Sabrina, Venice: Here is amazing in the winter time! It can be foggy, rainy or snowy. Yet often the days are crisp and cold. The city’s rhythm goes back to normal, people are friendlier. The museums and churches are empty. One can truly immerse himself in the authenticity of the city.Daniela, Florence: October, February, March, usually are not as crowded as the rest of the year. For the weather, May is a glorious time. The magnificent historic gardens are in bloom too!
5. What do you find the most exciting/unique/inspiring about your home or Italy?Loredana, Liguria: I think that Italy is a very interesting country. Full of history, art and culture, with good food, wine and traditions. About Cinque Terre, they are five small and colorful towns. They are not only a Unesco World Heritage Site and National Park, but first of all it is a park of “people”. It is a magic place where is possible to spend time, breathing in the nature and the sea, tasting local and genuine food and walking in paradise.Sabrina, Venice: Venice has attracted visitors for over 300 years. From what we read it was considered unique even before the 18th Century. But it is then, when its independence was coming to an end and the city found itself struggling to survive, that the myth of the city started. In the mind of visitors, the place became a dream-like city. It was evocative of the past and the Oriental worlds that the city had been in contact with. Everything that could be said in favor and against the city has been said and written since. The challenge today is being able to avoid the stereotypes of its glory and decadence. To go beyond, to grasp what modernity has brought. To learning how a community tries to stay and live in the most unique and utopian city of all.
6. Which place you love to visit in Italy?Daniela, Florence: There are so many! I love the Val d’Orcia, the Maremma in Tuscany, Rome, Puglia, Sicily. But I could really go on much more!
Loredana, Liguria: I love the most famous art cities: Florence, Venice, Milan, Turin, Genoa. But I also like to discover the hidden places, small medieval towns, secret spots off the beaten paths.
7. If you could give a tour to anyone (from the past or present), who would it be?
Daniela, Florence: Albert Einstein, because beside being a genius he must have had a great sense of humor. I also would not mind the great Italian actor and film director Alberto Sordi. Or even Mel Brooks, I am a fan of his movies!Rita, Lake Como: Perhaps it would be John Kennedy. Or even more historical, I would choose Byron or Shelly or Napoleon Bonaparte. For recent times, it would have to be of recent times, Brad Pitt. And I nearly did it!
8. What is your personal favorite restaurant?
Daniela, Florence: for lunch I like Trattoria Sergio Gozzi, or Sostanza. For dinner my favorites are Zibibbo 2.0, Osteria delle Brache and La Giostra.
Loredana, Liguria: I like good food, cooking and eating. I know many restaurants all over Italy. In Cinque Terre, one of my favourite is Gianni Franzi, in Vernazza. They serve authentic and genuine food. Even the location is really nice, near the sea.
Sabrina, Venice: For an unforgettable lunch/dinner with someone special I would go to Al Ponte del Diavolo in Torcello. If in Venice, I would go for the casual Al Calice near the hustle and bustle of Rialto Bridge. Second runner-up would be Restaurant Riviera in Dorsoduro, sitting outside and with the view over the Giudecc
Rita, Lake Como: If you are on Lake Como you can not miss a lunch or dinner at “Locanda dell’ Isola Comacina”, the restaurant on the only Island of lake Como, Island Comacina. It is such a unique experience with its fixed menu and the special coffee ceremony done at the end of each meal from Benvenuto, the owner of the restaurant. There are different other options of nice places also in Bellagio and Varenna.