Interview with Rome Tour Guide

  • Posted: 17.06.2021
  • Rome Tour Guide

    1) Tell us about yourself and how did you become an archaeologist and guide?

    I'm Marisa and I'm a Roman tour guide/archaeologist.

    I became an archaeologist thanks to my teacher of Art History, during High School.

    She was an amazing storyteller and she brought us kids in several museums and archeological sites. I started visiting museums on my own and reading books about famous discoveries, and I slowly made up my mind: I want to become an archaeologist. Indiana Jones was my model!

    At the University of Rome I attended the faculty of classic archaeology, I spent my time studying (Greeks and Romans): a dream come true.

    I joined many archaeological digs in Rome and in Italy, and I enjoyed every minute of it. Then I decided to do all the paperworks needed to get the tour guide qualification. Being an archeologist for living was not easy, and I had a health issue that made further “Indiana Jones” adventures impossible for me.

    What now?

    I started thinking “I love archaeology and I love Rome, I can share my knowledge with others!”

    After got my licence in 2009, I decided to open my business and do my own projects (no big groups, no agencies, only private tours), a long shot maybe but now I knew I made the right choice.

    I love being a private guide for small groups. That's how I become a tour guide.

    Rome Tour Guide

    Photo: © Marisa Ficorella

    2) What have been your most impactful experiences in terms of archaeological communication while studying?

    As a student I was part of the staff of the excavation of the Roman Forum. We were digging the house of the Pontifex Maximus, an important pagan priest, nearby the House of the Vestal Virgins.

    I remember a big exciment about a simple wall in clay with an important datation: 750/725 BC.

    The simple wall was part of one of the first buildings of the area, maybe connected to the origins of Rome. According to legends, Rome was founded in 753 BC.

    So to discover a small remains of something so ancient, was amazing and remarkable.

    We had journalists visiting the dig for days, and my teacher became since then maybe the most famous italian archaologist.

    3) How do you assess the relationship between cultural heritage and tourism?

    As a tour guide/archaeologist I'm torn between those two aspects.

    The archaeologist in me would like to protect our historical sites, while the tour guide understand that putting a limit to tourism would be an economic loss

    It's a fine line, but we must find a balance between the preservation and the economy.

    We must fight overtourism, not tourism.

    The big crowds we experienced in Rome during 2019 were very dangerous for the preservation of our cultural heritage.

    I remember clearly days when the Colosseum was so crowded that I started having fear (for the stability of the building). Visiting a city with so many large groups running from site to site, is not enjoyable, not even for the tourists.

    In my opinion, maybe unpopular, we must remember that Rome is an incredible outdoor museum, so we must put a limit to the daily numbers of visitors in certain areas.

    It's important to give to all the chance to visit Rome, but it's also important to preserve the cultural heritage to future generations of Romans (and not only).

    Rome Tour Guide

    Photo: © Marisa Ficorella

    4) Rome surprises many people with its antiquity and urban architecture, how strongly does the urban atmosphere effects on personality traits?

    I think that growing up in Rome, surrounded by historical sites and beauty really effected our personality. We're proud of our city, and we are educated in discovering day by day its long history, living in a slow pace. The classic Roman has a big sense of humour, a bit of cynicism and love to enjoy small pleasures after a long day at the office. Like driking a glass of wine in one of the outdoor cafè at Piazza Navona.

    This is legacy of our millenial story, of invasions, wars and pandemics.

    I'm aware of the problems of Rome (traffic is bad, the city is not always clean). But Rome is my home, when I'm sad, it's enough ,b>to walk down to admire the Pantheon or the Forum and I feel better.

    5) What is important to you when you tell people about the history of Rome and the greatness of the Roman Empire?

    It's important to understand the contradictions and complexity the of the Roman civilitations.

    So while I explain the cruel and unquestionable facts of the Roman History, I try to underline how Rome was able to unify a large area of the world.

    An empire with 50 millions of citizens, where there was no race or skin colours: they were all Romans.

    As long as you were respecting the emperors and the gods, you were considered a good Roman, no matter your origins.

    An empire made not only by soldiers and Emperors but also, architects and engineers.

    They conquered and killed, but also invented so many things: bridges, aqueducts, roads, baths.

    Rome Tour Guide

    Photo: © Marisa Ficorella

    6) What kind of tours do you lead in Rome?

    Beside all the classics of course, like the Colosseum or the Vatican tours, I've tried to offer high detailed and customizable itineraries.

    My specialty are historical walks: I 've designed itineraries with a special focus on Roman history.

    I thought that this was a perfect way to keep alive my background and education in ancient history.

    If the client is an history lover we can visit the Roman Forum for an entire morning, spend a day between ruins and museums in my “fullday with an archaeologist” or go to the Ancient Ostia, an archaeological park outside Rome. I can also tailor a tour to a client, following his specific interests. I'd never hire an archaeologist to visit a modern art gallery ;)

    7) Your favourite Rione in Rome and why?

    I'm lucky enough to live in one of the roman “rioni”, the 10th, Campitelli

    I've rented a small flat here, since it's really charming, and the location is perfect for me.

    It's my favourite since has a special glamour: like a smaller Rome, here you can find ruins (part of the rione is the Roman Forum) but also pictoresque alleys and small plazas.

    It's not “cool” as Trastevere or Monti, so it's very quiet at night and still inhabited by locals.

    8) An important gourmet question, your favorite Roman dish and your favorite brand of Italian wine?

    I love the gricia pasta, a very simple recipe, pasta with guanciale, pecorino romano, black pepper. It may reminds you amatriciana pasta, but it's prepared without tomato.

    About a wine brand, I love Casal del Giglio, a winery near Latina.

    I've tried many of their wines, red or whites, very good!

    In general about grape variety, I like Cesanese, a red sparkling wine typical of the south-estern area of Lazio, where originally my family comes from.

    For the moment you can find Cesanese just in Rome, so when in Rome try a local wine!

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

    • 1) Try an espresso. I know that coffee can be find all over the world in those days. But I suggest you to try to have an espresso, in the Italian way: a quick shot of coffee, standing at the bar counter. You'll feel like a local.

    • 2) Get lost, do not follow a list of sites of must-sees. Just walk. You'll discover secret spots and hidden corners.

    • 3) Enjoy the local food. Eat in one of the small family owned restaurants of Rome, not necessarly in a tourist locations.

    • 4) Visit the Roman Forum the crib of the history, where everything started.

    • 5) Visit the Pantheon. Join the millions of locals and tourists that for centuries are visiting the only temple of the Ancient Rome still standing, perfectly preserved. It's touching if you start thinking about it.

    • 6) The View from the Aventine Hill. There are many places in Rome, where you can enjoy a panoramic view over Rome. My favourite is the terrace of the aventine hill, the gardens of the oranges. Not popular like the Gianicolo terrace, but easier to reach.

    • 7) Be amazed by the Basilica of Saint Peter. The longest, the most incredible catholic church in the world. When in Rome you must enter in the Basilica and visit the Vatican Museums with the Sistine Chapel.

    10) How has the pandemic affected tourism in Rome and Italy? And what should be done to quickly restore the activity of the tourism industry?

    The tourism in Rome was destroyed by the pandemic.

    With all the limitations and international borders closed, it has been a disastrous year for all of us working in the tourism (but also for shop owners and restaurants).

    Even if there was some kind of local tourism, the pandemic left us without earnings for a long year. It has been a difficult year, with many of us closing their business for good or changing job.

    I think they should promote on media and tvs how safe is now to come to Rome, to restore faith in travellers. In July the EU will launch the green pass, some kind of a health passport: I hope this will bring more trust in travelling.

    I think the tourism will be fully recovered only in 2022, so finger crossed!

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