The life of a European tour guide: never-ending orgy of sightseeing, food, booze and casual sex? Or babysitting service for adults, dealing with questions and complaints day after day? We asked Italian Andrea Scriboni – a veteran of the industry with 20 years experience – to dish the dirt.
“I created my first job in this industry. I had an idea that’s very normal now, but 20 years ago was quite unique, which was holiday letting an apartment in Madrid. Back then, I was the only person doing this, and the clients I was attracting were very different – they were searching for something alternative.
Later, I moved to Turkey, and I started doing more exclusive tours. Then I went to Italy, and started working with different tour operators. I’ve worked mostly in Spain, Turkey, Italy and France. Most recently, I’ve started taking TripADeal customers around Europe.
To be a great tour guide you need to be able to handle a group, without them knowing it – without being like a dictator, but you are a little bit like a dictator (laughs). When you’re with a big group, and there are many things to see, you need to be constantly moving, but the people need to be comfortable. So you have to make them comfortable, even when it’s busy.
You have to lead, obviously, and this has always come naturally to me. Over the years, I’ve learnt how to deal with difficult people. I think people naturally trust in me.
understand that the idea of organisation and time is different in countries like Italy and Spain, than in Australia.
The hardest part of being a guide is the organising. And the people. One person can destroy a tour, because they can poison the other people’s experience. But I think the organisation is harder, because I’m working between the tour company, the group, and the driver. I also sleep very few hours, but that doesn’t bother me too much.
When people visit somewhere and it touches them deeply, that’s when I’m very happy. That’s the most rewarding part of the job. I remember the first time I took a tour of Australians, and some people were crying in front of some monuments – that’s very special, because I introduce them to a lot of places, but when they feel it like this, it’s very nice.
Rome is the most beautiful place I’ve seen. Objectively, the perfection and elegance, and the harmony of some of the monuments, and the architecture of the city – the power this has on people is incredible. When you see the Colosseum or Trevi Fountain, it’s something you will never forget.
A tip for someone going on a tour in Europe for the first time would be to understand that the idea of organisation and time is different in countries like Italy and Spain, than in Australia. It’s useless to get angry. You have to accept that it’s different or you won’t enjoy it. When something happens that you think is ridiculous, just laugh, because it’s normal here. My other tip is to read the fine print when you’re buying a tour, so there are no surprises, and you won’t be upset.”