Interview with Rome Tour Guide

  • Posted: 12.07.2021
  • Rome Tour Guide

    1) How did you begin your career as a tour guide? and when?

    I started working as a tourist guide for the first time abroad: it was in Norway, in 2005. I had just graduated from university here in Rome, taking Foreign Languages and Litteratures and specializing in Scandinavian languages. During the summer of 2005 I was tourist guide for English, Italian and Spanish-speaking cruise passengers in a lovely, small town called Geiranger. I returned to Norway for the summer seasons 2006 and 2008, working on all of the Norwegian territory, all the way to Cape North ! For me it has been love at first sight with this job, so I started to look for information on how to work as a tourist guide in Rome, and I found out I had to take an exam. Now I’m an authorized tourist guide of Rome and surroundings since 2013.

    2) You speak 4 languages, Italian, Spanish, English and Norwegian, you are multi-languages tour guide in Rome, what are the nuances with tourists during tours?

    Languages are a big passion of mine, so another side of my job that I love is that I from day to day I can work in English language, or Norwegian, or Spanish, or Italian. Working in Italian it’s the easiest on one side, because I don’t need long introductions or premises before the tour, because I’m native speaker and then I can easily make more jokes ! But I have to say Italians ask more detailed questions, and that could sometimes make it more complicated to me.

    3) What is important to you when you tell people about the history of Rome and its surroundings?

    When I work, I sometimes feel as an ambassador. People who take a tour with me will bring back to their home countries memories of Rome, but sometimes also of me and the way I showed Rome’s beauties to them. So I often think that if I’ve been polite, kind, enthusiastic and helpful, they could really think that Italians are nice people. It is always important to me to do my best to show them Rome and to tell them about Rome’s history in an entertaining way, trying to go beyond the historic dates and notions, and to try and make them live again some crucial historical events, especially when I have kids.

    Rome Tour Guide

    Photo: © Dario Bartoli

    4) What kind of tours do you lead in Rome, your bestsellers?

    As a tourist guide of Rome and surroundings, in my career I’ve been leading tourists in many different sites. In Rome, for example, I’ve taken my tourists to Castel S. Angelo, today a castle, but originally emperor Hadrian’s funeral monument, near the Vatican. I’ve lead tours along the ancient Appian way, the best preserved of the ancient Roman roads, to Circus Maximus and the Aventine Hill, to the Theater of Marcellus and the Jewish District, that in Rome we call “Ghetto”, to the Capitoline Museums and the Capitoline Hill and to the beautiful museum gallery called Borghese Gallery, located inside Villa Borghese. I’ve often been with students of history, engineering and/or architecture to the E.U.R. neighbourhood, an area of Rome born in the ‘30s, under the will of the fascist dictator Mussolini. I love to guide my people to Ostia Antica, introducing it as Rome’s “little Pompeii”, I love taking tours to the Ara Pacis, a monumental altar built by emperor Augustus in honour to the goddess Pax (“Peace”), and still about emperor Augustus, recently I was able to guide tourists to a newly opened site: the Mausoleum of Augustus, the funeral monument of ancient Rome’s first emperor. Sometimes I lead tours to areas outside of Rome: the beautiful Villa d’Este and Hadrian’s Villa in Tivoli (around km.40 east from Rome), and to the wine district in the area of Frascati (around km.20 south-east from Rome). When instead I meet tourists who want to have a more religious experience, we could visit Saint Peter’s Basilica, or the other three Patriarchal Basilicas in Rome (St. John in Lateran, St. Paul Outside the Walls and St. Mary Major), or any other beautiful church they could be interested in.

    Statistics say that tourist stay in Rome for an average of 3 days, so my bestseller tours are the ones to Rome’s most famous monuments and sites: the Colosseum (and the Roman Forum, and the Palatine Hill), the Spanish Steps, Piazza Navona, Trevi Fountain and the Pantheon, probably my favourite site in Rome.

    I also lead bicycle tours, tours by moped, wine tasting tours and food tours. Then there are the Vatican Museums, but even though I’m authorized to work there aswell, technically they’re not located in Rome, but inside Vatican City!

    Rome Tour Guide

    Photo: © Dario Bartoli

    5) Does being a guide mean dealing with different people from different cultures, countries? How do you do it?

    Yes of course ! When I work in a foreign language, I work with different types of cultures, but through time I learned how to customize tours, according to the interests of the tourists I have on my tour. While the Spanish culture (and even the South American one) is of Latin roots, and so closer to my ones, when I work in English I often guide tourists from United States, and their culture and habits are different. Same with Scandinavian tourists, who are usually a bit more reserved. But as I said, I’m quickly able to understand what kind of people are taking a tour with me, and so to always give them a taylor-made tour !

    6) Please share any funny travel stories during tours?

    I remember passengers on my bus when in Norway, at the phone with their parents, saying: “Hi mom, yes, we’re in Sweden, I’m on the bus with the tourist guide…”. Sweden, Norway, Finland, Denmark – you know, sometimes people get confused! Once I was asked how far was the Leaning Tower of Pisa from the Colosseum, and if it was possible to reach it on foot…

    Another time I remember a great question: “Dario, what does the Vatican exactly do?”. What should I have answered? It sounded like a question which needed a too long anwer!

    7) Your favourite place in Monti, Trevi and Trastevere!?

    My favourite place in Monti, is Piazza della Madonna dei Monti, a typical Roman “piazza” where there’s a nice Renaissance fountain (“Fountain of the Catechumens”), a “nasone” (see my answer to question n.9), and there are always lots of people chatting, drinking and enjoying the Roman evening.

    In Trevi, I personally like very much the Capuchin Museum and Crypt with its crypt, completely decorated with the skeletal remains of 3700 bodies of Capuchin friars. It’s indeed dark and creepy, but it’s a unique experience, and I like the message the Capuchin friars left there for the visitors: ”What you are, we were; what we are, you’ll be”. It’s about mortality and the passage of life on earth, about the body being simply the house of our soul. I see it as a way to try and exorcise the concept of death.

    In Trastevere, I always go to a pub called: “Ma che siete venuti a fà“: it’s a sport pub where the tap beer list is world class ... between 15 to 20 beers on draft, mainly Italian selections - which are fantastic ! There's also a very good amount of bottled selections. It’s located in the heart of Trastevere, so pretty close to Piazza Santa Maria in Trastevere or to Piazza Trilussa.

    Rome Tour Guide

    Photo: © Dario Bartoli

    8) And about foods :) TOP 5 best restaurants for local dishes in Rome?!, by your opinion!

    • 1) PIZZERIA REMO, Piazza Santa Maria Liberatrice n.44 in Testaccio, “Remo” it’s actually a pizzeria (to me the best in Rome), but they also serve a great pasta Amatriciana, steaks, “parmigiana” eggplant, bruschetta, a lot of delicious typical Roman fried starters (croquettes, supplì, fried cod fillets, fried stuffed olives….), and also Tiramisù, Panna Cotta and cherry and ricotta cheee pie!

    • 2) OSTERIA DE MEMMO, Via dei Soldati 22/23. Around the corner from Piazza Navona, in a lovely small street, Memmo runs his restaurant with passion since 1967. Here is where I go when I want to treat myself with some good fish, while when I recommend it to tourists, I always suggest to try and have a complete meal only with his “antipasti” (mozzarella, San Daniele ham, meat balls, eggplants, bellpeppers, mushrooms, artichokes, cheese, melon…..): their variety will surprise you!

    • 3) LA FRASCHETTA DI MASTRO GIORGIO, Via Alessandro Volta n.36. Still located in Testaccio (one of Rome’s best neighbourhoods for food !), this restaurant serves a lot of typical Roman recipes, like cod, lam, tripe, seasonal local cheeses and cold cuts and of course Carbonara, Cacio and pepe, Amatriciana and Gricia pastas!

    • 4) DA ROMOLO ALLA MOLE ADRIANA, Vicolo del Campanile 12. In Borgo Pio, near the Vatican, this restaurant has a unique location: here you can dine next to the famous “Passetto”, a hidden, elevated corridor dating back to the Middle Ages that still connects the Papal apartments to Castel S. Angelo ! Recommended for the classical Roman pasta and meat dishes, they also serve fish and pizzas!

    • 5) OSTERIA DEGLI AMICI, Via Nicola Zabaglia n.25. Again, Testaccio ! According to me, here you can taste one of Rome’s best Pasta Carbonara, with crunchy guanciale and a super tasty sauce ! They also serve the other classical Roman pasta recipes, soups, a delicious fitet of tourbot in potato crust, thymeand and rosemary, tuna fish, and excellent desserts like pistachio parfait, chocolate soufflé or crumbled with fresh ricotta cheese, chocolate and pistachio!

    9) Tell us 7 things to do in Rome until leave :)

    • 1) Peep through the keyhole of the Magistral Villa of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta… are you sure you know what

    • 2) Find your favourite little, hidden piazza in the historical city center, sit for a cup of coffee, a cappuccino, a glass of wine or a beer and enjoy the strolling around you.

    • 3) Try Rome’s cold, drinkable water from one of the over 2500 “nasoni” (“big noses”), Rome’s drinking fountains ! They’re all around the city ! Always ice cold, even when the temperatures here in Rome start to rise !

    • 4) Reach the top of the Gianicolo Hill, in Piazzale Giuseppe Garibaldi and enjoy the Eastern view over the city of Rome and the North-West view over the dome of St.Peter’s Basilica. Here daily, at noon, a cannon fires blank towards the river Tiber as a time signal. It’s a tradition dating back to 1847!

    • 5) Try and organize a do-it-yourself morning food tour (or buy one from me, hehehe): choose a good food district (Testaccio, Trastevere, the Jewish Ghetto, Monti…..), start with a good cappuccino or espresso coffee in a small coffee bar, proceed to a food market and buy some tomatoes and some basil. Wash the tomatoes in a drinking fountain, bite them together with the basil and enjoy their real taste ! Proceed to a small supermarket, buy some parmisan, some slices of ham, mortadella and salami. Then a little slice of “pizza rossa” and a “supplì” in a small take-away pizzeria, a nice glass of prosecco in small coffee bar and conclude with a flavourful “gelato” in a good gelato place!

    • 6) Try and enjoy places like the Colosseum, St.Peter’s Square, Trevi Fountain, Piazza Navona or Spanish Steps early in the morning or late at night, far from the crowds. These sites are always accessible (of course you won’t be able to enter the Colosseum, but you’ll be able to walk around it), and they’re safe - always protected. Be blessed by Rome’s monuments illuminated with

    • 7) Of course: flip a coin into Trevi Fountain !! Tradition says you’ll be back, and I promise – IT WORKS ! Just make sure you do it right, according to tradition: shoulders to the fountain, coin in your right hand, throw the coin moving your right hand over your left shoulder, crossing your heart ! You’ll be back!

    Rome Tour Guide

    Photo: © Dario Bartoli

    10) Places you loved while traveling outside of Italy?!

    As I explained, I started working as a tourist guide in Norway, so there I had the chance to see almost the whole territory. Places like Geiranger, the Lofoten islands or Åndalsnes, and then the Northern lights, Cape North, the midnight sun, the fjords are unique to me.

    I’ve also enjoyed very much the Chalkidiki peninsula in Greece, near Thessaloniki when I went there on vacation in 2013. Specifically Afytos, where I found history, great food and a wonderful deep blue sea - I almost felt at home!

    11) How has the pandemic affected tourism in Rome and Italy? and what tasks for the future of tourism?

    The pandemic affected my sector pretty bad. I remember my last tours in February 2020, then came lockdown. I would have never thought nor expected it would have come to this point. I led maybe 5/6 tours in July, September October 2020 and maybe other 4/5 this year. I’m starting again now in July, which seems enough busy so far. I feel rusty, indeed, but for sure willing to start over again!

    I think the tasks for the future of tourism are to move towards a sustainable and “slow” tourism, and to prevent cities like Venice, for example, from mass tourism and overtourism. Italy should promote much more the less known (but not less beautiful) destinations (Ancient Appian way, Tivoli, Tuscia and “Castelli Romani” area here in Rome, just to mention some). We have really everything here Sam: from mountains to natural parks and reserves, waterfalls, active volcanoes, lakes and seaside, islands, unique history and traditions, fashion, sports, music and of course some of the best food and wine/liquors in the world ! And the sun is often shining down here, we’re blessed! I don’t think our tourism ministries in the last years even really realized this, otherwise we could show much more of Italy to tourists. Of course they mainly want to see Venice, Rome, Florence, Naples/Pompei (the famous 1800’s “Grand Tour” !), but there’s much more than that, according to one’s interests and tastes. If we could promote this better, this in my opinion would help also overtourism in the big cities.

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    It was big interview and absolutely great, it’s a honor to have an opportunity interview with Dario from Rome, thanks!!