Interview with Rome Tour Guide

  • Posted: 22.09.2021
  • Rome Tour Guide

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

    My career as a tour guide started quite by chance, in 2008. At that time I was an aspiring actor and I was making a living by waiting at tables. Eventually, I met the person who completely changed my life forever. Her name is Julie and she is half American and half Japanese. She was hired as manager in the restaurant that I was working for, and she and I immediately became good friends. Actually, even before I found out that she was the new manager, I met her at my house for my birthday party because, it's indeed such a small world, at that time she was dating a friend of mine.

    Long story short, she quit the restaurant because she was hired as a manager for a tour company. At that time, together with the traditional tours of the Vatican Museum and the Colosseum, this tour company also gave nighttime Ghost Tours which were receiving very poor online reviews.

    This is where my friend Julie realized that maybe an actor who could speak good English, could tell the stories in a more engaging way.

    She asked me to try, but I was really reluctant about it. The reason being is that I did not know much of the history of Rome, so I thought I was not at all qualified for it. I eventually started (it was definitely better than to keep working in restaurants) and I received very positive reviews right away.

    This nighttime ghost tour at that time was rated 2.5 stars, out of 5.

    Once I started doing it, it quickly increased its sales tenfold.

    Eventually, the manager of the tour company told me that if I was prone to study and to get the proper Tour Guide qualifications, they had a lot of work for me.

    The rest is history.

    2) You have been working as a guide for over 12 years, what advice would you give to young people who want to start a career?

    My recommendation is to speak and communicate in the language very well. You may be super knowledgeable in your subject but, if your audience doesn’t understand what you are saying, it's useless. Too many times I hear tourists commenting that tour guides are boring to listen to. Therefore, I would suggest to record your voice and then play it back, to assess whether there's a good rhythm in the voice, or not. The average duration time of a guided tour is 3 hours and, if the tour guide is boring to listen to, it can then be a very loooooong 3 hours.

    3) What is important to you when you talk to people about the history of Rome?

    My goal is that people will be fascinated by the history. When I research for a tour, I seek for those lesser known and curious facts that can be interesting for both the history buff, as well as that person who is new to the subject. I want my people to be on the edge of their seat when I tell them a story and that they take something with them from the tour

    Rome Tour Guide

    Photo: © Massimo Storyteller

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

    I started tour guiding in the city of Rome back in 2008. I now cover all major sites of the city, such as the Colosseum and the Vatican Museum, as well as the lesser known sites. Lesser known places like Ostia Antica or Palazzo Massimo museum are true hidden gems. Besides, over the years I crafted unique and themed storytelling walking tours that shine a light onto the social side of the history. In this way, I finally have the chance to tell the stories of remarkable historical people whose memory is forgotten today.

    For example, my most popular storytelling tour is the "Julius Caesar & the Emperors' Nighttime Stories". This is an evening walking tour that shows many popular sites of the city at night, while telling amazing stories of 6 Roman figures. We begin with the life-story of Julius Caesar, right by the place where he was assassinated. We then talk about Margus Agrippa, right in front of the Pantheon. He may be a lesser-known figure today, but was so incredibly significant in his time. His story is a fan-favorite.The tour then delves deep into explaining slavery, human rights as well as homosexuality at the time of the Romans. Our final story is the one of Emperor Nero, in Piazza del Popolo. This is the big finale of this nighttime storytelling walking tour.

    Anyways, another popular storytelling walking tour that I lead, is entitled "Scarlet Ladies". This tour tells of 7 historical women who lived ranging from the 1400s to the 1600s and wanted to emerge from poverty. A few of them succeeded by either modeling for famous painters of that time (like Raphael or Caravaggio) or by intertwining love affairs with powerful men. In Renaissance times, the women who were financially independent and were not married, suffered a social discrimination and were labeled with the derogatory word "Courtesans".

    On this tour, I tell in detail the stories of these 7 amazing and independent women. We accomplish this mission by entering churches which were their burial sites at that time, and by also walking by a few buildings that were their houses, back in the day. For the story of every woman included on the tour, I show the visuals of all the artworks that they had modeled for.

    Some of these stories will make you laugh, but others will also make you weep a tear. It's a roaller-coaster of emotions.

    Rome Tour Guide

    Photo: © Massimo Storyteller

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

    Yes, it does. This is one of the aspects of my job that I love the most. Every day I meet different people from the whole world. Literally. Some of my clients can be adventurous solo travelers or a couple on their honeymoon, to just make a quick example. Regularly, though, I have families with children or retired people who come to Rome to see its marvelous sites. I also regularly encounter several people who are from very different cultural and religious backgrounds. This continuous confrontation with folks from different nationalities has shaped me and has also "molded" the man that I am today. I am deeply grateful for this opportunity.

    6) Do you have any funny travel stories during tours? Please share :)

    Nope, especially because on a 3-hour-long guided tour, there is not even enough to share all the necessary historical information. There is no time on tours for sharing funny stories that are not related to where we are at.

    7) So…gourmet and drink question :), your favorite TOP 5 bars in Rome!?

    In the city of Rome it is, honestly, quite easy to find a good restaurant or simply a good wine bar with a great view.

    This is an easy win :D

    This being said, what I personally recommend to experience is:

    - Go to Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II. This is the biggest square of the city of Rome and is located just a few minutes walk from the main train station Termini. There is also a subway metro line that takes you here, the Vittorio Emanuele metro stop indeed.

    This Piazza has been restored very recently. It houses in its middle a big park enriched by archaeological remains and the XVIII century Magic Portal.

    If you go to Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II in the morning, there's the “Gatsby Cafè” that serves a very good breakfast. Besides, here you also find one of the most popular brands of Rome when it comes to food, “Roscioli”. All Romans know Roscioli and this is a high-quality brand. Here you can have breakfast as well as you can purchase their homemade baked goods. This is top-notch.

    Nearby Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II you will also find one of the undoubtedly best restaurants in all of the city, called “Trattoria Vecchia Roma”. This hidden restaurant is really, really well known among the locals. Make sure that you make a reservation for it, with at least 2 days' advanced notice.

    After lunch, why don't you go grab an excellent homemade Gelato?

    Yes, right. Without leaving Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II, you can have gelato at “Fassi”. This is the oldest and the best homemade gelato that you will ever find in the city of Rome. Fassi has been producing gelato since 1880.

    I mean... SINCE 1880.

    If instead, you want to go to Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II only for a glass of wine or a Spritz, very good wine bars are “Catsby Cafè” and “Casadante”. The latter is located in the smaller Piazza Dante, which is close by. This area always looks wonderful in the morning.

    If instead, you are planning to go here only for a glass of wine or a cocktail, well, in that case, I would recommend doing it in the summertime. In wintertime, it isn't as charming as it is in the summer.

    I've got another piece of advice though :)

    If you don't want to go away from the city center, then I highly recommend you to go to Piazza di Pietra (which is very close to the Pantheon) in the evening.

    Piazza di Pietra is a lovely little square, that turns out to be one of the most enchanting places of Rome, at night.

    Grab a glass of wine or a beer from either “Salotto 42” or “Osteria dell'Ingegno” but consume your drink out in the Piazza at night, while admiring the ruins from the temple that back in the 2nd century AD, was dedicated to Emperor Hadrian.

    8) Your favourite place in Monti and Trastevere and why?

    I actually happen to live in the Monti neighborhood, hence I know it quite well.

    My favorite place to eat is, undoubtedly, "Trattoria Tettarello".

    Here, appetizers, as much as the pizza and the pasta dishes are really good and it's a very reasonably priced place.

    Another good place for the pizza is "Grazie a Dio è Venerdi".

    If instead you are looking for some good steak, my favorite place in the neighborhood is "I Monticiani".

    These are my top favorite places to eat.

    In addition, Monti is a neighborhood full of very good wine bars.

    Indeed, it is not by chance if we run the "Food & Wine Tour of Monti", because there are lots of very good places where to find great wine and, don't forget, that Julius Caesar himself was BORN IN MONTI.

    In regards to Trastevere neighborhood, the places that I go to more often are "Trattoria da Teo" where the pasta dishes are delightful, and "Osteria da Zi Umberto".

    Anyways, keep in mind that these are popular places, so do make a reservation a couple of days upfront.

    Rome Tour Guide

    Photo: © Massimo Storyteller

    9) 10 things to do in Rome until leave :)

    • 1) The Protestant Cemetery (nearby subway metro Piramide). This is one of my personal favorite places in the city.It's an artistic and fascinating place. Here, you find the burial place of the English poet John Keats, as well as one of the most popular statues in the world, the "Angel of Grief".

    • 2) St Paul's Outside the Walls Basilica (subway metro San Paolo). This amazing church is also within walking distance from the protestant cemetery. This truly is a beautiful and gigantic place to see, full of many interesting artworks.

    • 3) Ostia Antica. At Piramide metro station you also find a local train station. From here, every 20 minutes leave trains headed to Ostia Lido. If you get at the "Ostia Antica" train stop, you will be mesmerized by one of the most beautiful and most important archaeological sites in the world. Ostia Antica is an ancient Roman city. Top-notch.

    • 4) Saint John in Lateran Basilica with the Holy Cross in Jerusalem Church and the Museum of Musical Instruments

    Ok then, with these options I am giving readers a great tip for new discoveries in Rome. These places are so close to one-another and they are all incredibly amazing.

    To begin with St John in Lateran Cathedral, did you know that the papacy started here, and had been founded here for over a millennium? Yes, you heard correctly. This is an incredible place to visit, and the church's main bronze door was created at the time of Julius Caesar. Beside it and right across the street from the cathedral you find the Holy Steps, a marble staircase that believers climb on their knees as way to cleanse their soul.

    I've never climbed it myself, but is something of a one-of-a-kind to see.

    In addition to this, and only a few minutes walk from these sites is another ancient and beautiful church known as the Holy Cross in Jerusalem Church.

    Before delving any deeper into the history, let me clarify that I recommend to tourists to visit churches of Rome because they are like free museums.

    Last but not least, right behind this church there is the Museum of Musical Instruments, which happens to be the most important one in the world of its genre.

    • 5) Palazzo Massimo alle Terme. If you are into the history of ancient Rome of even just a bit, you will love this museum. My personal opinion about is that this is the most beautiful museum in the world.

    • 6) Basilica di San Clemente. This is a multi-layered church in the vicinity to the Colosseum. This basilica has underground levels that make you go 45 feet beneath the street level of the city.

    • 7) Centrale Montemartini. This is another fantastic museum, located 10 minutes walk from Piramide metro station. The Museum is an early 1900s Power Plant that nowadays houses an excellent ancient Roman art collection, plus the oldest Train of Italy.
    Highly recommended

    • 8) Sant'Agnese Nomentana. This is a beautiful medieval church rich of plenty of amazing things to see and underground Christina catacombs that are open to the public

    • 9) Coppedè Neighborhood. A one-of-a-kind and off the beaten path neighborhood of Rome, built in 1927

    • 10) Palazzo Barberini Museum. If you love Renaissance and Baroque paintings, this is a highly recommended museum to visit

    10) Your favourite places outside of Italy?

    My favorite places outside of Italy?

    Oh well, in 2018 I finally made to Japan and I profoundly loved Tokyo.

    Besides, I did numerous solo trips to Stockholm, Sweden. Love that city.

    I've also got numerous good friends of mine living in Paris and Dublin. Therefore, these are cities that I try to go to, at least once a year.

    In 2020 I was meant to go to America for my first time, but of course the trip screwed up!

    Another amazing trip that I had, was going a spending a couple of days in the Sahara desert. That was one of the most remarkable experiences of my whole life, and I would go back to the Sahara today.

    Rome Tour Guide

    Photo: © Massimo Storyteller

    11) How has the pandemic affected tourism in Rome and Italy? and what tasks for the future?, how is tourism recovering now?

    Oh well, how even to begin with this..

    I remember that in January 2020,I was sure that it was going to be an amazing year. The city of Rome has some of the most visited sites in the world, and, in the early days of 2020 I was receiving reservations for guided tours for the following months, until the fall.

    I remember I was happy.

    In 2019 tourism in Rome was at its climax and I was making personal projects of how I could improve my life and to move on to my "next step".

    When, in the end, quarantine became official and the major sites of Rome were shut down, I felt like I had no ground beneath my feet. Literally.

    I did not know what to expect.

    I knew that I had to be strong and to go through this but, on the other hand, if you can't make any money and you cannot pay the rent either, the chances of seeing the light at the end of the tunnel are very, very little.

    Anyways, long story short, I decided to dedicate all the free time that I had in quarantine, to speed up my research and create a new and unique storytelling tour. Eventually by the month of June 2020 I had my "Roman Empresses Tour" ready, which I am really proud of. This is the first and only storytelling walking tour available in Rome and all of Italy, that delves deep into the lives of women and their rights, back in the Roman time.

    However, by the time that everything started to slowly re-open, summertime 2020 was not going that bad. The amount of work available gave me a chance to easily pay the rent and the bills which was fine for me, considering that the pandemic was still around.

    Unfortunately, though, in October everything shut down again and things became unbearable, especially due to the 10pm curfew!

    At that point, I truly believed that it was over.

    Not only all museums, historic churches and archaeological sites were closed, but we were prevented from even simply giving a guided tour in the outdoors.

    I was then counting on the Christmas Holidays to make some money, since Rome has such mild temperatures in December.

    It is lovely to hang out in the city centre with a glass of red wine in your hand and to see all these amazing sites being all "dressed up" with the Christmas decorations.

    I initially thought that in the month of December we would have had some more freedom, but I was wrong again.

    I was completely running out of money and I was seriously facing the fact that, most likely, I was going to leave Rome for good.

    I've been living in Rome since 2003 but I am not native to this city. My family lives along the Adriatic coastline of Italy and, in early 2021, I seriously thought that I had to give up on my career and return home.

    Thank goodness, things started picking up by the end of March.

    Initially it was only Italian tourists coming to Rome from different parts of the Penisula but then, especially by the month of June, tourists from other Countries have started coming back here for their holidays.

    I am now writing these lines in September 2021 and things are going well. I've got plenty of tours to do and there's lots of tourists in the city.

    I hope that this will stay stable, for at least until the end of the year.

    This pandemic made me face some of the most difficult years of my entire life.

    I think I speak on behalf of everyone if I say that I can't wait for this to just be left in the past.

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