Many travelers come to Florence Italy for its cultural heritage. They attend guided tours organized by the best tour operators in the hope of being led by local tour guides in Florence but, recently, they are receiving a poor service. There is a reason for this, and in this article I’m going to explain to you why this happens and how you can avoid it.
The “advantage” (sarcasm) of being in the European Union
When planning a trip to Italy, you should be aware of the fact that “il bel paese” is not only a place where you can find great food and beautiful landscapes. Indeed, most of the foreign travelers opt for tours that mostly include our cultural heritage, visiting cities filled with art and history. Guided tours are necessary to fully enjoy Italy and hiring local tour guides in Florence is certainly the best way to do so. Until 2013, we had strict regional laws that limited the access to the profession: to be licensed as local guides in Florence, you needed to attend a long course and pass a difficult exam to verify your deep knowledge of the area involved. It was not dissimilar from a University degree, and this was made to guarantee a high quality of the service. In particular, Tuscany split the licenses by province (there are 10 provinces in Tuscany), so a licensed guide of Florence (like me), not only couldn’t provide a tour in Rome or Venice, but not even in Pisa or Siena (Tuscan cities in a different province), unless he attended another course and passed another exam. On top of this, even though the exam was open to any person from anywhere in the world, the candidates were required to at least speak Italian. How can a guide help you during a tour if he doesn’t even speak our language? It makes sense, does it?
Now the EU had a “great idea”: under the flag of free market and competition, they stated that the profession of tourist guide can be practiced by any licensed tour guide in any part of the European Union. As a result, local tour guides in Florence can now lead you through the Norwegian fjords while a tour guide of Helsinki who doesn’t even speak Italian can show you the Uffizi Gallery. It’s impossible that he knows enough on the things to do in Florence Italy, simply because he didn’t study for years to prepare just for this city.
There is a reason why this law was approved, and it’s not linked to free market nor competition, but the opposite: the large tour operators are always in search for ways to decrease their costs, and one of their costs is paying a tour leader staying with the group for all the tour across Europe, plus local tour guides in Florence and other cities for the attractions the group finds along the way. Thanks to this new law, they can hire a tour leader who is licensed as tourist guide anywhere in Europe, and use him as the tourist guide for the entire trip, probably involving Paris, Berlin, Prague, Rome, Venice, Florence. They don’t care if he doesn’t speak French or Italian; they don’t even care if he is licensed or not, by the way, how can you check?
Make sure you get genuine licensed local tour guides in Florence
Now maybe you’re OK with someone telling you that Italy (which owns 70% of the World cultural heritage) is about pizza, spaghetti, and mafia, then enjoy your trip and don’t care reading on, but be aware that you don’t even need to spend your money to come here to just get this stereotype. If you want to have high-quality services for your guided tours instead, you need to use Google and search around a bit:
- beware the lowest price guaranteed tours
- beware the multinational operators offering guided tours in all of Europe or even all around the world.
- stick to the local tour operators, even though this involves a different counterpart for each of your destinations
- directly hire local tour guides to get the best possible service
A local tour guide knows how Florence tickets work, and if you should buy the Firenze Card. He will help you to skip the line at museums and can give you suggestions on where to shop, what events to attend, and in general, on what to do in Florence during your holiday.
In the city of Florence, I can offer you a selection of private tours, or you can choose a group tour by a local tour operator. Just contact me with your request. I am here for this: I’m your contact in Florence, right?
As for other cities, Google is your friend. The internet is filled with genuine local licensed guides waiting to be hired by you. Just scroll down in your searches: don’t click on big multinational website ads (did you know they get up to 40% or more of the price when you book through them?), but search for “local tour guides in [your destination here]” and check several pages of results. Don’t be lazy: it’s about turning your well-deserved vacation into a memorable experience!