Hiring a private guide

How to hire a private tour guide in Italy

Mario Bernardi, Rome tour guide
Mario Bernardi was a tour guide for the Italian Ministry of Culture from 1999 to 2008 and has university degrees in Aestetics and the Philosophy of Art—who better to show you around the artistic wonders of Rome?
Sometimes you want something that goes beyond the pages in your guidebook or the audio tour at the museum.

Though they aren't cheap (see box below on the right), private local guides can be the keys to the most rewarding Italian vacation—and if you're already spending a few grand on the trip itself, what's an extra couple of hundred bucks to make sure all that effort of getting over there was worth it?

How much does a guide cost? The rates charged by private tour guides varies widely based on the guide's experience, the popularity of their destination, and, frankly, however much they want to charge. For a ballpark:

  •  $35–$90 per hour
  • $200–$650 per day

  • Many guides will offer a "first hour free" sampler of their services.
    A tour guide can help you tailor your days of sightseeing and shopping to your own tastes, and give you the utmost depth of information about any subject that catches your fancy:

    Local guides know the hidden corners and amazing anecdotes that can help make their city and its history come alive, and can answer all your questions. Yes, with enough guidebooks, history tomes, and Googling you could probably uncover much of this on your own, but it would take a phenomenal amount of time and research whereas a guide can spoon-feed it all to you at the drop of a hat.

    If you've never toured with a private guide before, treat yourself to one for a day—or even just a few hours in the morning —in one of the major cities. Trust me; you won't be disappointed. Just make sure it's a licensed tour guide.

    How to find a licensed private guide in Italy

    You can get a list of officially sanctioned and licensed guides from the local tourist office—but that's all you get: a list. Some travel guidebooks will recommend a local guide or two (someone who often doubles as the local stringer the publisher uses to update the information in the book).

    Aside from a direct recommendation from a friend who's been there before and used a guide, your best bet for finding a local guide is to book one via a third party:

    Private guides in major Italian destinations

    • Rome
    • Florence
    • Venice
    • Milan
    • Naples, Pompeii, Amalfi Coast

    » More tours in Rome

    » More tours in Florence

    » More tours in Venice

    » More tours in MIlan

    » More tours in the Naples Bay area


    Related pages

    You can pick up brochures on all sorts of bus tours at local tourism offices in Italy, or book ahead via a site like our partners Viator or City-Discovery.com.

    Bus tours in major Italian destinations:

    » More tours in Rome

    » More tours in Florence

    » More tours in Venice

    » More tours in Milan

    » More tours in the Naples Bay area

    » More tours in Pisa

    » More tours in Bologna

    » More tours in Turin

    » More tours in Italy

    Figuring out your own budget tour

    With a map showing bus routes and a bit of imagination, you can put together your own budget tour for the price of a standard public bus ticket. Most major cities have a commuter bus line that, either by design or default, happens to pass by many of the tourist highlights (like Rome's no. 64—and its express cousin no. 40—from the train station straight through the historic center to the Vatican area, or Rome's teensy electric buses no. 116, 117, and 119, each of which trundles a different path around the twisting streets of the historic center).

    You have to provide your own commentary, of course, by being quick with a map and cross-referencing it to a guidebook (though if you have Internet access with a cell/palmtop, you can always following along using a ReidsItaly.com map, available in each major city section), and you'll end up missing out on most of the quirky anecdotes and hidden history. On the other hand, it's really, really cheap.

    Each city section of this site will point you to the most useful public buses that make the rounds of the major tourist sights.

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