How to Select a Walking Group Tour Guide When Visiting Italy
Most baby boomer travelers have an Italian vacation to Rome, Florence, Venice, Tuscany, or the Amalfi coast very high on their bucket lists.
It is our professional opinion that when you travel to an international destination as popular as Italy, the hiring of a competent, licensed walking tour guide is an absolute must.
Not only will you completely bypass lines at popular destinations that are generally three or four hours long, but your experience will be greatly enhanced by a knowledgable guide.
We will never forget standing in line for four hours to get inside the Vatican Museum a number of years ago. The worst of it was, we had a tour guide, and she was standing in the long line with us!
A competent, licensed walking tour guide is an absolute must.
Trust me, you don’t want to spend your precious time and money standing in long lines everyday. You’re here to see the sights, not stand in line!
To help you avoid the pain of some of our past experiences, let me share with you how we do it now that we travel for a living.
10 Tips for Hiring a Walking Group Tour Guide in Italy
- Only use a licensed tour guide. Italian law requires that its tour guides pass a comprehensive knowledge test and be licensed before they can operate as a tour guide. Ask to see a copy of the tour guide’s license. If they can’t provide it, don’t use them. Chances are they are operating illegally.
- Size matters. During our recent trip to Italy, we witnessed a number of walking group tours that appeared to have well over 50 people in the group. I pitied the poor folks in the back of the group. With all of the commotion of the crowds and the size of their group, there was absolutely no way they were hearing a word that their walking travel guide was saying. Look for a company that will keep the size of their groups to a minimum. We traveled with one that allowed a maximum of 12 people, and their average group size was 8. It was wonderful. We actually got to ask questions, AND, have them answered.
- Check on technology. Quite a few of our walking tour guides, on our most recent trip to Italy, used portable, wireless intercom systems with headsets. This was very nice because as we were walking from place to place, our guide could still be talking and all in the group could still listen and learn.
- Watch the fine print. Ask if the price is all-inclusive. You don’t want to pay for a guided tour of the Roman Colosseum and find out that your price doesn’t include actual admission to the Colosseum. ACK!
- Ask about VIP Admission. One of the great benefits of using a licensed walking tour guide is completely bypassing the long lines. Furthermore, a few walking tour companies can get you special access to unique sites that the walk-in crowds never see. When we visited the Vatican recently, we walked in the front door like we owned the place. Plus, our walking tour guide had arranged for a special Vatican guard to whisk us through the crowds, take us behind roped-off areas, and move through the museum in significantly less time. I’ll never forget completely climbing over a massive mob of folks as our guide took us through the red velvet rope, and up a staircase not available to the walk-in crowds. What a delight!
- Look for passion. Crawl around the walking tour guide company’s Facebook, Twitter, or Google+ pages and read some of the comments of their guests. If you’re not seeing raving fans of their company, move on!
- Water and bathrooms. Many of these tours can be four hours long, or more. Ask if they will be providing water bottles and ample bathroom breaks in their tour. You’ll be glad you asked!
- Single language spoken? Some walking tour companies will hire guides who speak multiple languages and mix languages in their groups. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to stand and hear the information repeated in several different languages. Absolutely insist on single language tours!
- Ask about transfers. If you’re in Rome on a cruise ship, or perhaps at the airport, you are a long ways from the ancient parts of Rome. Ask your walking tour company if they provide or help you out with transfers.
- Inquire about private tours. If you’ve got a little extra jingle in your wallet, or perhaps you’re a famous celebrity, a private tour just might be the cat’s meow. While this would be nice, we prefer a small group so that we can also make new friends from around the world.
We’ve now made quite a number of trips to Italy, and we hope that the wisdom we’ve collected over the years brings you nothing but joy as you explore all that Italy has to offer.
Recommendation and disclosure: during our most recent trip to Italy, our new friends at Walks of Italy sponsored our walking group tours in Rome, Florence, and Venice. We were beyond impressed, have become raving fans of their company, and feel very confident to highly recommend them to you. Thanks Loredana for all of your above-and-beyond the call of duty help!
Link: Walks of Italy Tours