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About Tour Guides in Italy

Mary Jane Cryan (www.elegantetruria.com)

Question: Why can't I get a tour guide from Rome to tour me though Pompeii?

Answer: As a writer/professor living in Italy since 1965, perhaps I can shed some light on this question: Each province has its licensed guides. Guides from Naples-Pompeii in the Provincia di Campania would not allowed to guide people around Venice, Rome or Pisa and vice versa.

Each provincia has stiff exams that tour guides must pass and they must abide by the payment regulations. In the provincia di Viterbo where I live an Italian national guide (there are only two who speak a relatively decent English) earn only about $150 a day, plus any tips. So you can imagine how unhappy these guides would be when they see you bringing in someone from outside. Actually they do have a monopoly and if an "abusivo" guide is caught bringing people around, a "licensed" guide can ask to see their credentials and then denounce them.

The only exceptions I can recall in which a group can bring their "own" guide in is when it is a university/school group accompanied by their own professor/teacher who explains the site. When I taught at some of the international schools here we had to organize and lead many such school trips as they were part of the curriculum. After decades I now write the guide books the teachers, guides, travelers use.

The person who accompanies the bus tour from Rome to Pompeii is usually called an "escort", responsible for getting you on/off buses, making contact with the guide who will actually show you his territory-the city of Pompeii. The tour guide system is so complex you could take years to know it all and be able to explain it to foreign visitors.

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