Interview with Rome tour guide, founder of Davvero Rome

  • Posted: 15.12.2020
  • Interview with Rome tour guide

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

    I began literally the 2nd day of January 2017. I was an advertising executive in NYC for nearly 10 years before I decided to quit my job and move to Rome, wanting to start a new life here. I had it in mind to do something in tourism, but I didn’t know what specifically. Because of my background in marketing, I started consulting for a few companies here – one of which was a boutique tour company called Eden Walks. At first I was helping with the website and blog content but wanting to do something different (and away from the computer) my client suggested I started doing his food tours instead. Which I absolutely loved! This was the turning point for me. And it was a snowball effect from there – in the best way possible. Shortly after I created my own Aperitivo tour which I hosted on Airbnb Experiences and through the encouragement and support from my past customers, I founded Davvero Rome.

    Planning itineraries was something I had been doing for as long as I can remember. From my own personal trips where I would need to utilize every second of my measly 10 vacation days a year in the states - to friends and family visiting my hometown of New York City and me wanting to make sure they ate and drank only the best of the best. I was jokingly referred to as the human Zagat at the ad agency because I was always in charge of planning work dinners and drinks, our corporate events – sometimes even making arrangements for our clients when they were in town for business.

    My idea for Davvero Rome also came about quite randomly, yet organically. When I submitted my Aperitivo tour on Airbnb I realized that most of the experiences listed weren’t local or authentic at all. And most of them seemed to be hosted by a non-Roman or non-Italian person (and in my opinion) exploiting both sides. So this prompted me (more like motivated me) to find the REAL version of everything. Hence the name I chose - Davvero Rome which translates to: ‘Really Rome’ or ‘Rome for real’. I obviously had a lot of time on my hands during this period 😉 But I did it. I found the real, authentic version of everything listed and more. I researched and tested each and every experience personally, covering every aspect and interest. There are a lot of unique offerings, some off-the-beaten-path but I’ve also got the mainstream destinations covered as well, only slightly different from your average tour.

    I only work with real local Romans, Roman companies, or Italian companies doing legitimate business in Rome. Meaning they are located and registered in Rome so everything (including money) flows within the city, giving business and job opportunities to local Romans. All while respecting the Roman people living here and preserving their neighborhoods and favorite establishments.

    It took me a while to put all of the pieces of the puzzle together, but I finally figured it out. And in June 2019, I officially started my business. Mine is somewhat of a unique travel service and I have three levels. The first option (for a one-time fee of $75) is for me to create your travel itinerary with experiences only. I’ve created a detailed questionnaire to get acquainted with my client and their travel goals, which is followed by a 20-minute phone consultation. After which I give them several itinerary options to choose from and am always available to talk them through it. The client pays the local doing the experience directly. I just ask for them to let me know which options they decided to move forward with so I can continue to be of help if they need, leading up to their trip. The second option is where I layer in my recommendations for food and drink on top of their experiences. This flat fee of $125 includes multiple restaurant and bar options and also includes me making the reservations for them. The third option – “Complete Package & Your Local Chaperone” is just that. For $400 a day (not including the cost of the specific experiences, food and wine) I plan their entire itinerary, make the restaurant and bar reservations and then take them around to everything myself! It is literally like having your own personal local chaperone - so you feel completely comfortable and at home. I’ve only had a handful of clients since I launched right before the Covid outbreak but so far this seems like the most appealing option to people. I even had a client inquire if I could accompany them to Puglia!

    In addition to Davvero, I’ve somehow managed to become part of the very beautiful and close-knit family that is the bar community here. Some of my favorite places and people are the bars here in Rome and the those who work in the establishments. My passion for the cocktail movement that is happening here inspired me to create a new underground Cocktail and bar tour around Rome which I was also JUST about to launch before the pandemic. I also have a blog (Davvero Rome) and am a regular contributor to Romeing Magazine (a local magazine for expats and tourists) and Culture Trip.

    2) Why tourists should choose tour guide services?

    Seeing all of the sights and getting to know the soul of a place when traveling can be difficult. And this is especially true of Rome – a city with so much history, you almost need an expert to guide you through it. Getting that local perspective so you don’t actually feel like a tourist is equally important – especially with eating. Italian food is some of the best cuisine in the world but it IS possible to eat a bad meal here believe it or not. And it pains me every time I hear about it!

    Tour guides and local guides give you that insider access that is otherwise unknown unless you live here - to authentic places to eat, drink shop or just to people-watch (a favorite Roman pastime second to la passeggiata). Nowadays you can do all of the research online ahead of time, but I still feel like there is nothing that beats a local’s recommendation. Word of mouth suggestions, a friend-of-a-friend is almost guaranteed to make for a special and memorable experience. I may be old-school, but I feel like this concept and approach to travel will make a comeback after the dust settles from this global pandemic. People will want to have that human connection, that local perspective and guide to show them the real life, authentic side of the cities and countries they have been longing to visit.

    3) What’s important for you when you’re talking to people about the beauty of Rome?

    It’s easy to see how beautiful Rome is just by walking around. This city is like an open-air museum, with Bernini statues and fountains out in the open for the public to see – and for free! You can find the best works of art both in the many museums here in Rome or in our 900+ churches. A modern city that has built itself layer upon layer and in some cases around the artifacts that remain of an ancient civilization. Every corner you turn you can find something unexpected and beautiful. For me even the graffiti is something poetic. Rome is like a juxtaposition of two worlds, two extremes coexisting together. Rome can be as pristine as it can be gritty. You can spend a lifetime living here and only scratch the surface. The only way you can catch a tiny glimpse of it is if you see Rome through the eyes of a Roman.

    4) What kind of tours do you lead in Rome and which is your bestseller?

    While I don’t personally give all of the tours I recommend, I’ve carefully selected (and tested) each of the experiences on my recommendation set to clients, ranging from: various food and wine tours, cooking classes with an Italian chef, wine, grappa or olive oil tasting with a sommelier, mosaic classes done in the ancient Roman technique to an archeological excavation dig (and lunch) on site, an outdoor opera experience, truffle hunting in Bracciano, kayaking in the Castelli, or horseback riding and a picnic along Ostia Antica. I am also in the process of expanding my network beyond Rome and Lazio.

    And of course I still do my beloved aperitivo tour (‘Tour de Spritz’) where I take a small group (never more than 6 people) around three completely different (but always local) destinations so they can experience the ritual that is aperitivo here in Italy. I also created a ‘Drink & Eataly Wine Tasting Tour’ where I have teamed up with Eataly Ostiense and a local family-owned enoteca for a wine and food tasting at each. One of my services is also to create a Bespoke Experience from scratch based on my Client’s requests. And my brand-new ‘VIP Cocktail Tour Around Rome’ is also completely customized to your taste of cocktail, atmosphere, and neighborhood. This exclusive offering explores some of the best bars in Rome where you’ll get a sense of the up-and-coming bar scene and experience Rome’s nightlife like a true local and literally drink like (and with) the locals.

    I would say that the best sellers are anything that involves some food or drink within the experience. As much as people want to go sightseeing, they also want to eat and drink well when in Rome!

    5) Being a tour guide means that you have to deal with different people from different cultures, countries? That means you are also a psychologist, this is true? :)

    In a way I guess yes! Just like my past experience in advertising. Hahaa. There is a bit of analyzation and evaluation that takes place during the itinerary planning process and again upon meeting. And in addition to being personable, you need to have intuition and be able to read the room (and mood) so to speak. Especially with a group of different people, cultures and personalities. It’s my job - and something I do naturally and genuinely - to set the tone and find that common denominator so that everyone is comfortable and having fun. And total strangers can feel like long-time friends at the end of the experience.

    6) Do you have any funny travel stories with tour group? Please share

    Yes but what happens in Rome stays in Rome! Hahaa. While I can’t divulge specific details, let’s just say a few clients wanted to take me out after our tour concluded and we stayed out so late that I almost missed MY flight the next day. They luckily were staying in Rome and didn’t have to leave anywhere so early the next morning. Just another reason I love my job – especially when clients turn into friends 😊

    7) What are some of your ‘can't-live-without’ accessories? during tour

    My phone charger! And a water bottle…for drinking and also to demonstrate how the nasoni (Rome’s water fountains) work.

    8) How has the pandemic affected tourism?, and what tasks for the future?

    Very badly. The tourism and hospitality sector in Italy, specifically Rome, took a HUGE hit. There are a lot of places and businesses on the verge of staying closed permanently. The restaurants and bars have been the most damaged by the pandemic and how the city has been handling things in general..

    And then there is the psychological damage – that hopefully with the vaccine and some more time, people will all be comfortable and excited to travel freely again.

    Besides those who have lost loved ones directly to the disease, there has been a lot of collateral damage done - many people have already lost their jobs and their livelihood, but the Italians are a resilient bunch, and we are all trying our best to remain positive and hope for this all to pass sooner rather than later.

    At the beginning of the pandemic, I took a client survey to get a sense of people’s views of travel and tourism post Covid.

    And there were some positive takeaways that have me feeling hopeful for the future. Number one

    I feel like tourism and tours in general had become too saturated in the big cities. Too many huge groups of tours running in and out of places at rapid speed, massive groups and very little interaction with the local community (at least not in a positive way). Everyone seemed to be doing the same thing - and there was nothing personal OR authentic about it.

    So if the only good thing that comes out of this is the elimination of those largescale, impersonal, group tours that would mean a lot. It would mean the sites and streets aren’t overrun by crowds of people, that everyone can move and interact in a less intrusive, aggressive way. It would mean sustainable, respectful tourism.

    Everyone craves travel and being around people. Travel is the expansion of the mind and heart and that want for human interaction that we’ve all been denied will only be stronger when we come out of this. I think people are now more inclined to take part in local, genuine experiences and will want to support local businesses even more then before.

    Also good news for me is that the whole world seems to love this country. Almost everyone that responded to my survey said that Italy was either on their list of where they were traveling pre-Covid or has now become their number one destination in 2021.

    9) What’s your top favourite destinations in Rome and why?

    Ahh this is a tough one! For the historical monuments – the Ancient Roman Forum and the Pantheon. Doesn’t matter how many times I walk past either…it always stops me right in my tracks.

    I of course have a few favorite restaurant and bars but it’s impossible to list them all! I’ve been exploring Rome for some time now 😉

    10) What do you recommend to tourists who are going to visit Italy, to eat and drink while they’re here?

    So many things! Roman cuisine is unlike other regions in Italy – and a bit particular. There is a deep history and interesting influences that can be found in each recipe. The most well-known of the ‘trinity of Roman pastas” are: cacio e pepe, carbonara and l’amatriciana. But real Roman cuisine is the quinto quarto (the fifth quarter) and cucina povera (poor kitchen). The locals managed to create masterpieces from the scraps left over by their nearby butcher. The birthplace for this type of cooking where most of the best offal restaurants can still be found are in the neighborhood of Testaccio, where the old slaughterhouse once was.

    Some specific Roman dishes and delicacies that you must try: Coda alla Vaccinara (oxtail), Trippa (intestines), Veal Saltimbocca, Abbacchio (grilled lamb), cicoria (chicory), puntarella (vegetable typical of Rome), fried zucchini flowers, Carciofi alla Romana and Carciofi alla Giudia (steamed and fried artichokes), eggplant parmigiana, suppli (the Roman version of the Sicilian arancino) and of course Roman pizza!

    Rome can be a bit difficult to navigate for strict vegetarians but in recent years, there are a bunch of new, cool places that have sprouted up.

    Contact with Lauren
    • Web: Davvero Rome
    • IG: @davverorome
    • FB: @davverorome

    It was absolutely fantastic interview and I love it very much, it’s a great honor to have an opportunity interview with Lauren, thanks dear!