If I have to look for the very first sparkle of “A Friend in Rome”, I have to go back to my childhood.
I have always been passionate about travel and the Rome’s history, when I was a child, I didn’t play “mom and daughter”, but “the travel agency”, with my family members forced to pretend to be customers to whom I organised incredible trips around the world. At the age of 20, I started working in tourism for an important tour operator as an incoming specialist from the USA. I learned a lot, but I suffered from a small “detail”: I only met “my” customers when something had gone wrong and they called my in anger. When everything went smoothly, most of the times, I didn’t get to see their smiles. I started to desire a job “front line”. In the meantime, on summer 2000, I organised my honeymoon to Mexico: since I knew a couple of Mexican boys who were studying in Rome, they put me in touch with their families. Those two days were illuminating: escorted by “locals”, we found ourselves making tortillas at their place and eating churros in a remote neighbourhood of Mexico City. I continued to work at the tour operator for several years, but the core idea of “A Friend in Rome” is there. When the opportunity to change arose (I had to wait several years to obtain my tourist guide licence: the exam is not always available and mine had a “biblical” duration, 4 years!) I combined those first ideas, my knowledge of Rome, the emotions I experienced during my trips and everything took shape.
What makes “A Friend in Rome” special is that our tours are “really” personalised: I ask to my guests what they expect from their holiday and I try to create a program suitable for each party and condition. Thanks to the ideas of our guests and to the creativity of my wonderful team of guides, every year our list of proposals becomes more complete. We also offer traditional tours, but we extend the range of action to the whole city: suburban areas, underground Rome, the neighbouring places that can be reached in one day (I have a parallel site called www.aroundromedaytrips.com). We move on foot, by public transport, by bike, by Vespa, by car, in “calessino” (an Ape Piaggio modern rickshaw), in vintage cars. During these years we had enlarged our services: our guests can experience “typical Italian things”, for example making pizza or a little fresco painting.
The other excellence everybody recognised after a tour with us is our friendly approach. Our tours are only for people who already know each others: families, couples, groups of friends, in order to create a unique relationship with our new friends. We do not mix people who don’t know each other because this forces to a standard proposal and limits the possibility of improvising, as it happens when friends are waiting for you in their city and are eager to let you know it, just like it happened to me in Mexico 20 years ago.