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Difference between a Tour Manager & a Tour Guide requirements in Italy???

I am looking to combine my love of Italy and my photography career by taking photography and culture enthusiasts on tours of Italy after I retire soon. This would be a business based in the USA. My wife and I would lead the groups as Tour Manager/Director(Accompagnatore Turistico).

In my limited knowledge, there is a difference between a Tour Guide and a Tour Manager/Director

Tour Guide: (Guida Turistica) Tour guides offer specific narration in a destination and a culture sight and is licensed to guide tourists into museums etc...

Tour Manager/Director: (Accompagnatore Turistico) Tour Directors are responsible for the on the road logistics, confirmations, planning, unexpected delays, damage control, and group dynamics. They travel with the group for the entire tour.

I realize that a tour guide in Italy is a very qualified position that is licensed and requires a tough exam given only once a year in Italian, that we would need to hire locally, but do not understand if there are similar licensing, exam requirements for a Tour Manager/Director which would be myself? Do you have information or guidance you can share on the subject of the Italian requirements for someone from the USA to be a tour manager in Italy? I've searched for days but cannot find a definitive answer. I am hoping our dreams won't be squashed.

Posted by
6234 posts

I suspect the best place to start is the nearest Italian Embassy/Consulate office.

Posted by
20632 posts

Do you have a working knowledge of Italian? I think that would be as critical as a license.

Posted by
958 posts

Sounds daunting and costly. I looked in to doing the same many years ago and decided to be a tourist instead.

Posted by
3315 posts

You would also most likely run into work permit visa issues if you are not already an Italian or EU citizen.

Posted by
8628 posts

Since I have done this job--albeit not in Italy although I know the rules--I can help.

As far as I know, there are no separate disctinctions when it comes to licensing.

Your definitions are basically correct. For most tours, the Tour Manager/Director does much of the guiding. It would be very costly to hire guides every day. It Italy, to be able to guide everywhere, you must be a licensed guide from anywhere in the EU. If no license, there are places that you will be prohibited from guiding. (Rome, Siena and the Cinque Terre are examples.)

I'll give you an example. I took a Rick Steves tour where the "guide"--RS calls them guides but they are technically tour directors/managers--was not licensed. Before entering Siena, she suggested people use the Rick Steves audio walking tour. She could lead us to the starting point of the tour but that was it. If she did what would be considered guiding, and another guide heard, she could get into trouble and even fined.

Local guides in Italy are very vocal about non-licensed guides. They'll say a few choice words to you and possibly call the police.

One other thing... don't just think you can organize a tour and lead it without any training. You have no idea what goes on behind the scenes and what a tour director must know. It's not just spending time with the group. I've seen people trying to do what you want to do and get into serious trouble. Think about getting some actual training in the job. It will make your life easier.

I remember being assigned to a custom tour put together by a travel agent. The travel agent decided she would lead the tour. Since she arranged everything with my tour company, they insisted a trained tour director go along. I was warned she could be a problem. So I let her run the tour. By day three, she handed the whole thing over to me because she realized she was over her head with things she never thought about.

Posted by
22 posts

Hello,

Trying to understand what this means -

As far as I know, there are no separate distinctions when it comes to licensing.

Does that mean an Italian resident Tour Guide and an American coming from the US as the Tour Director for that trip both have to be Italian licensed? IE take the annual test in Italian, have the education requirements? I've searched so many Italian websites trying to decipher the rules but cannot find actual information on the Tour Director.

We are looking at starting with either the ITMI Student Tour Master Class certification or the International Guide Academy Tour Director certification.

We don't want to skirt the Italian laws or requirements and spend our time dodging the authorities or having to lie to clients.

Posted by
22 posts

You would also most likely run into work permit visa issues if you are not already an Italian or EU citizen.

I guess I am confused, and this is the first time considering this. We would not be living in Italy, but flying over with each group, would that make a difference?

Posted by
3315 posts

You would be performing the job of tour guide or director which would normally be done by an EU/Italy citizen. So, yes, as I understand it (and based on my own work history in Germany and the UK) you need to have a work permit visa even if you do not exceed the stay limit for normal tourists. Just something else to check on to make sure you do not run into issues.

Posted by
20632 posts

Yes, you are on the ground in Italy doing something for which you are being compensated. That is working. You are working as a tour guide in Italy. You will need the appropriate work permit. Not easy to get. Just think of the reverse situation where Mr. Trump doesn't want foreigners talking jobs from American citizens. You are the foreigner in Italy.

Posted by
15578 posts

I have done this job many times and I have no license. Since all of your duties are are unofficial, there is no need for any license that I am aware of. Most of your work will be before you leave, getting airline tickets, booking and getting hotels paid, booking charter buses and train tickets and getting local transport tickets. Then in Italy, you're just the go-to guy, herding your group along the way.

Tour Directors are responsible for the on the road logistics, confirmations, planning, unexpected delays, damage control, and group dynamics. They travel with the group for the entire tour.

Yes, that pretty well describes it. Nothing here has any legal bearing when you are in Italy.

You have already been paid in the US, so you are not "stealing" any European's job. You are on vacation, just like anyone else. You are just the one "in-charge".

Posted by
6234 posts

you are on the ground in Italy doing something for which you are being compensated. That is working. ( Frank-Colo.)


You have already been paid in the US, so you are not "stealing" any European's job. You are on vacation, just like anyone else. You are just the one "in-charge". ( Sam GB)

If I were compelled to place a bet, it would be that the Italian authorities are going to adopt the "Frank" statement rather than the 'Sam' statement.

Have you talked to your atty and insurance agent as to what type of legal entity you need to create to insulate you from being personally liable and how to insure that entity to protect it?

Posted by
11572 posts

No firsthand experience here but from what I'm seeing at a glance...

As far as I know, there are no separate distinctions when it comes to
licensing.

According to this source, that appears to be the case:

https://www.lawyersitaly.eu/opening-a-tour-operator-in-italy

All tour guides in Italy must have a license in order to develop their
activity, and this is also applicable for tour managers or tour
interpreters. The latter are persons who assist foreign visitors in
translating into the visitor’s mother tongue various information
throughout their stay in Italy. Tour interpreters also need to be
licensed. Provided that a person carries out these activities without
a license, the Italian institutions are allowed to charge fines

And the next article echoes Frank's other mention of local guides being "very vocal about non-licensed guides." Given that Italy's economy has taken a devastating COVAD-19 hit, the industry could be more than a little twitchy regarding foreign guides/tour managers, especially if unlicensed. It's very possible that they'll prefer these jobs go to Italian citizens who could manage the requirements and who may badly need them.

http://www.romefile.com/living/working-as-a-tour-guide-in-rome.php

Note the part about licensing tests being held in Italian?

.

Posted by
22 posts

Hello Kathy,

I have seen what you posted, that is from an Italian Attorney's website. Again it is hard to interpret as are they referring to a resident guide or does it encompass an American bringing a tour group to Italy, to me it's not clear.

The Italian Tour guide I understand.

I emailed that website, they sent me a canned response trying to sell me their service of starting an Italian company.

Posted by
22 posts

Further confusing is I believe there have been at least 3 adoptions in Italy from the EU regarding changes to how Italy can license Tour Guides. The last one was in 2016

Implementation of Directive 2013/55 / EU of the European Parliament and of the Council, amending Directive 2005/36 / EC, relating to the recognition of professional qualifications and of Regulation (EU) no. 1024/2012, relating to administrative cooperation through the internal market information system

My understanding is that Italy had to adpot that since they are in the EU, any EU licensed? qualified? Tour Guide in the EU would meet their criteria and would not require to be licensed in Italy to Tour Guide.

Apparently this is managed in the EU by the CEN, so logically I looked to the CEN to give their standards which all they do is define what is a Tour Guide, and what is Tour Manager and it appears the individual members of the EU can define their own criteria. There are EU members that require no licensing, so therefore I would assume an EU resident living in a country working as a Tour Guide that doesn't require a license is now 'licensed' to work as a tour guide in Italy. There are no EU countries that I could find who specifically state a Tour Director needs to be licensed in their country. So for even laxer standards for a Tour Director, I find it ambigous that Italy could require a license for one, however the whole thing is very confusing.

Posted by
16770 posts

There are many tour companies, like Rick Steves’ Europe, that are based in the US and take closed groups to Italy and other countries. I can’t tell you what paperwork is involved but the Italian guiding license is not one of them, for reasons similar to Frank II’s description. There are a variety of professional associations for tour operators, such as https://www.etoa.org/tourguides/, which you could consider joining. Once purpose of that organization is to help navigate and advocate around these specific legal issues.

Posted by
11572 posts

Bingo! Excellent stuff from Laura.

I figured someone at HQ could point you in the right direction, Mike, given they employ some guides and tour directors who are not E.U. citizens (or don't appear to be, anyway.)

Posted by
22 posts

Thank you very much Laura, I will examine that link in length.

One dumb question what does it mean when you say a "closed group" tour, I can't find any definition for it by googling.

Posted by
8628 posts

Unless the laws have changed, if you are an American leading an American based tour where you are compensated in America, you should be allowed to enter the country. (You do need to check this because changes always occur.) It's the same reason why a business executive from a U.S. company can have meetings in Europe without a work permit. You work in the U.S. and are temporarily representing a U.S. company. You don't plan to stay. Work permits are for people who plan to live in a country full time.

There is only one license in Italy for guides. There is no separate license for tour directors/managers. There is no such thing anywhere in the world as a separate tour director/manager license. If you just want to be the go to guy who checks people in and out of hotels but does no guiding, you don't need a license.

And yes, if you can get a license in another EU country then you would be licensed to guide in Italy. EU rules state a guide license from any EU country is valid in any other EU country. But there are usually residency and educational requirements. Just because you are a citizen of the EU doesn't mean you are automatically allowed to guide in Italy. You need a license.

While you are in training, the school will go over all the rules when handling an international tour. As suggested earier you need to learn about how to set up and run a tour company. Besides hotels and buses there's insurance, international payment, foreign taxes, health issues, group dynamics, etc. There's a lot more than just having fun taking photographs and eating pasta. :)

Since you plan to get professionally trained, my suggestion would be to actually work for a tour company operating a few tours to see how well you really like it. It can be anywhere.

I went to ITMI. The other school didn't exist when I went nearly 30 years ago.

Posted by
15578 posts

I like Frank II's answer over Frank's. You are over thinking this. Ask if our mentor Rick went through all this rigmarole when he was taking groups of 6 in a rented VW microbus in the 70's. All of your issues will be on this side of the pond, taxes, liability, making payments.

Posted by
1 posts

Hi Mike

I am a local tour operator in Florence and I also have a license as an accompagnatore turistico - Tour leader. As an American citizen you can of course bring groups to Italy and you do not have to have a license as a tour guide or tour leader. However you do have to consider a few details.

If you are going to organize this service from the USA - your guests will obviously be paying you for this service. You have to either create a LLC and become a travel agent with insurance OR create a travel package with a local travel agent who can make the transactions of for your guests where they can purchase travel insurance ecc.. and you make some kind of commission.

When you are in Italy you can of course travel with your guests as the travel manager although if you stop in to historical towns and walk around with your guests and would like to talk to them about photography ecc. ecc. you will have to have a local tour leader with you. A local tour leader 'accompagnatore Turistico' also passes an exam in minimum three languages and takes the course you have to be a citizen or have a permit for such course although to be honest it is not really worth your time you may as well just hire a tour leader during your experience that will also help you with logistics.
Hope this helps
Best Regards Linda

Posted by
8628 posts

With respect to the above post, that's not how things are done in the US and it could be that she is trying to sell her services. (This is too common with a first-time poster talking about her business.)

You do not have to become a travel agent to conceive and operate your own tour. Anyone can book group rates with airlines, hotels, etc. In fact, you can't become an independent travel agent without experience.

You can accompany your tour everywhere. However, as I have said numerous times before, in certain areas you must have a licensed guide with you to the the actual guiding. (I believe the above poster is misinterpreting what we would call guides and tour directors. (Why would you need a licensed "tour leader" and not a guide?

Posted by
22 posts

Blockquote

When you are in Italy you can of course travel with your guests as the travel manager although if you stop in to historical towns and walk around with your guests and would like to talk to them about photography ecc. ecc. you will have to have a local tour leader with you. A local tour leader 'accompagnatore Turistico' also passes an exam in minimum three languages and takes the course you have to be a citizen or have a permit for such course although to be honest it is not really worth your time you may as well just hire a tour leader during your experience that will also help you with logistics.
Hope this helps
Best Regards Linda

Hello Linda,

Perhaps some scenarios and you can comment-

A typical scenario is maybe we have 8 clients, 5 of them interested in the photography activities and 3 with no photography interests but along with their spouses to enjoy the cultural aspects of the tour.

Day 2
1)In the morning I pick up the 5 photo clients for some sunrise photography out in the countryside, at the same time my wife meets the 3 non-photography clients and they go for a walk in the village for some sight-seeing, my wife accompanies them and says there is a nice cathedral to go see, however, she reminds them I am not a licensed guide so we can walk there together and see it, we can go inside and afterward we will go to the local bakery for sweets and coffee and wait for the others to come back. At no time does my wife talk about the cathedral's history or point out historic frescos or anything of the sort, she simply accompanies them and walks with them afterward to the bakery.

2)We all meet for lunch together.

3) In the afternoon we drive them all to a nearby larger town and this time we are all meeting a licensed tour guide to guide us all through the local museum for 2 hours and then to the village square for 1 hour where she explains the unique history of the town we are in and points out some unique things around the square and their history.

4) After this, the photographer clients and myself set about walking through the town with their assignment to take lovely pictures, I simply follow along with them and we discuss technical photography issues, maybe I take a few pictures with them and perhaps I give advice on how to best capture the lovely fountain in the village square with the light just right...

5) At the same time, the other 3 non-photographers and my wife go to the local spa for spa treatments.

6) We all meet up for apertivo and then dinner.

7) After dinner 2 of the photography clients want to take part in my offered sunset photography session by driving over to a nearby hill that overlooks the village, all the rest of the clients decide to either turn in for bed or spend their free time walking around the village.

8) After the sunset photography, I drop the 2 photo clients back at the hotel, say good night and we do it all over again the next day.

Could you point out any of the above situations where I would be required to hire a local Tour Manager or would be in violation of Italian laws and in danger of being fined for operating without the proper licenses?

Thank you very much.

Posted by
6234 posts

Why not contact the Italian Embassy/Consulate and present your "Day 2" 8 item agenda to them and see what they say?

I suspect none of the participants here are as well equipped as they are to address the legal issues you are dealing with. (Do not forget to inform them you were paid to set up the junket.)

Posted by
22 posts

Hi Joe,

I've emailed them, good suggestion. I've emailed a lot of places and people probably a dozen or more by now. Strangely the Italian agencies who decide and regulate all this are impossible to email.

Posted by
16770 posts

In my opinion, your Day 2 plan is fine and legal, similar to what our tour leaders do. But at any time that you are talking to the group in a public space, you must be on guard not only not to lecture about history, culture, and art but also not to appear to or be misconstrued to do so. You can still be questioned. You would become particularly suspicious if using a microphone or audio system. Luckily, smaller groups can be less noticeable.

Posted by
15578 posts

I second Laura's comment. Again, you are over thinking it.

Posted by
8628 posts

Mike......please listen. You are way overthinking this.

For your "Day 2" plans you are fine. No license needed, no tour leader needed. You are simply accompanying some fellow photographers on a photographic vacation. You offered to make the arrangements.

The poster, Linda, provides tour services. Of course she is going to tell you a tour leader is requried.

If Rick Steves can send unlicensed "tour leaders" to run his Italy tours, why do you think you have to have licensed people? I've taken one of his Italy tours where the tour leader (guide) was not licensed. And this guide leads multiple tours every year. But in the places were a guide was needed--we either had a local guide or were told to use the Rick Steves app. But these people were talking about the area--history, culture, religion, etc--and not giving photographic instruction. You don't need a license to give photographic instruction.

I don't know what it is going to take to convince you. I don't think anything will.

Posted by
2865 posts

One responder brought up the question of insurance. Big Red Flag. If you want to be a U.S. enterprise, being paid in the U.S., and thus not subject to Italian regulations, you would then be vulnerable to suits here, should anything go wrong. I don’t think we need to dwell on how litigious Americans are, nor on how many things can go wrong when traveling.

That is the first issue I would explore. It is conceivable that insurance would be so expensive that you might have to scrap the whole idea. Advice from a lawyer and from an insurance agent experienced in these matters, to my mind, should be your starting point.

Posted by
958 posts

The insurance issue/ liability was my reason for not pursuing this. I just didn’t want to deal with it.

Posted by
6234 posts

If Rick Steves can send unlicensed "tour leaders" to run his Italy tours, why do you think you have to have licensed people? I've taken one of his Italy tours where the tour leader (guide) was not licensed. And this guide leads multiple tours every year.

Are you saying the RS guide did not have a required license, or are you saying that no license is needed for what they do?

Posted by
96 posts

Hi Mike,
I haven't deeply read all answers, but being an Italian Tour Guide and Tour Leader I like to answer you.
1) Tour Guide and Tour Licence are two separated jobs in Italy and you need two different licences to do both jobs. The examination is done at Regional level in Italy, even if the reference law is at European level, this means that sometimes there are differences between Regions in the tests (I know is silly... but we are Italy :-D ). In any case is mandatory at least a foreign language at a quite high rate, on top of Italian of course.
2) The licence about Tour Operator (in Italian is called "Direttore Tecnico") is different and is related to create, sell or resell tours and travels. And of course opening his own Tour Operator. This is not really related to leading group or explaining monuments, only on creating and selling. Several years ago the Italian law said that being a reseller (Agenzia turistica) or a travel creator (Operatore turistica) need a different licence, but this is changed.
3) Being an European law the reference means that a guide can operate (theoretically) everywhere within European Union, but usually each guide operate only in places very well known. Since a couple of years ago a guide could operate only in the region where was licensed. Ten years ago the license and operation range was give by each town (or sometimes province). This means that there are still discussion about the operation range of a guide.
4) Tour Leader. A tour leader can lead groups everywhere in the World. So I can lead a group in Italy, in USA, in Argentina... Wherever I know well the country where I'm going.
A tour leader from another country of course can lead a group if he is regularly licensed in his country. So, if you are leading your group in USA and a controller (maybe a policeman) stops you during a tour, are you doing something that could be fined? If yes, probably you can be fined even in Italy, remembering that now there are much more controls than in the past. To keep in mind that you have to start with the group (or the first group) and coming back to USA with him (or the last group): if you are a resident in Italy you must have the Tour Leader licence (I have several foreign colleagues here: not Italian but who are living in Italy and working as tour leaders or guides).
One point to remember (very often forgotten) is that a Tour Leader in Italy is responsible for the respect of the Travel Contract. Is even responsible for the safety of the group in any case.

Coming back to your request:
- being a Tour Manager, create a tour, find travellers and so on is not a problem in Italy. You are doing your professional activity in USA and you are responsible for it in USA. Nobody in Italy ask nothing about it.
- being a tour leader, if you are an authorized TL in USA is not a problem. Sometimes there are controls.
- a guide must be licensed. If you aren't... you are fined every time you are controlled.

If Rick Steves can send unlicensed "tour leaders" to run his Italy tours, why do you think you have to have licensed people? I've taken one of his Italy tours where the tour leader (guide) was not licensed. And this guide leads multiple tours every year.
I never worked with RS and never did a tour with him, but I believe a professional tour operator doesn't send an unlicensed Tour Leader. Probably in USA you don't need a real license like in Italy, but RS does training to be sure that the TL are skilled people.
As I told above: when a TL arrive with the group from a foreign country, is the law of the original country the reference.

If Rick Steves can send unlicensed "tour leaders" to run his Italy tours, why do you think you have to have licensed people? I've taken one of his Italy tours where the tour leader (guide) was not licensed. And this guide leads multiple tours every year.

Posted by
8628 posts

Are you saying the RS guide did not have a required license, or are you saying that no license is needed for what they do?

Both. The guide did not have a license. To just lead a tour, you don't need a license. To "guide" you do need a license.

There is a difference. Let me try to explain.

I'm leading a group. We arrive in Siena. We walk to our hotel and I check the group in. I tell them they are on their own for dinner and suggest a couple of places I've tried I tell them we will leave at 9 AM tomorrow and I will walk them to the main square. So far, what I have been doing does not require a license. We get to the main square and I start talking about the history of Siena. Now I've broken the law.

Even though Rick Steves calls the people who run his tours "guides", they are techniically tour directors and not guides.

The person who gives you a city tour is a guide. The person who takes you through a museum is a guide. The person who travels with your from city to city is a tour director or tour manager.

Posted by
96 posts

Sorry for the very long answer, but is not a so easy matter.
I want to give you a "case study". A personal experience with a group I lead one year ago. I don't want an answer, only to make you think about what can happen in a tour, when you as tour leader is responsible for the respect of the program and the safety of the tourists.
About 50 people around Italy. Almost every day a different hotel (Milan, Venice, Florence, Rome). The 4th day of the tour in the morning during the guided visit a lady fall down from a step and hurt the knee: she stand up and says that can continue the tour. The afternoon was free, so the group was scattered to watch whatever they like or even to come back to the hotel to rest. At late afternoon we meet again with the group and one person was missing. His wife said that they divide watching different things and he was not there later. We wait a little bit more and then we come back to the hotel. He wasn't there.
In the evening the wounded woman said that the knee was hurting much more, so we called the ambulance and I lead her to the hospital. The missing person wasn't returned in the hotel and all his documents and money was in the bag of his wife, so he was in a foreign city without documents and money. While in the hospital I start to call the police service and other hospitals to check for the missing person. After some hours we come back to the hotel (fortunately nothing broken in the bones of the lady, only a little of pain).
Meanwhile of course I have to arrange the 5th day activities and keep an eye on the rest of the group. Including a person that after 4 days hadn't had his luggage from the flight company...
The missing person has been found only in the morning of the next day by the police. He was fine, only tired and cold. He was lost but doesn't trust on police so he never asked to a policeman for an help (otherwise at dinner was in the hotel...).

Posted by
96 posts

@ Frenk II

To just lead a tour, you don't need a license.

Written in this way this is an absolutely wrong statement.
In Italy an "Accompagnatore turistico" is a job and is mandatory have a license to do this job. We usually translate it as "tour leader", but you are free to call it "tour manager" or "tour director". Is the person in charge to lead the group through all activities in the Travel Contract: could be only a transfer from the airport or a several days tour. Is responsible for any kind of activities and the safety of the group.
Every Italian or person living in Italy to work as Tour Leader have to be a licensed "Accompagnatore turistico". I know very well that there ar several illegal TL operating in Italy, but here we are talking about how to do regular things.
If you lead a group in Italy and you are arriving with the group from the original country, you must be an authorized Tour Leader respecting the laws of your countries. If in your country you can do this job without a license is not a problem lead a group in Italy. Always remembering that in Italy the TL is responsible for the activities and safety of the group.

Posted by
67 posts

I would like to add to what our Italian friends have already explained so well. Things are changing and local guides will be (understandably) keen to protect their profession. Despite what some have said, you will have problems with local tour operators/guides/officials if you are leading an organised tour and do not have some kind of official license. You may not actually be "guiding" but if you are walking around with a group of people following you it will appear so to others. Moreover, if you do not speak the language, and are not able to explain/defend/justify your particular situation to local officials or guides (i.e. manager and not guide) you run the risk of being fined or expelled from whatever museum/site/etc you are visiting.

Posted by
22 posts

Hello Ricky,

Thank you for your personal insight and examples of the reality of doing this as a profession.

Just to be clear when you said :

If you lead a group in Italy and you are arriving with the group from the original country, you must be an authorized Tour Leader respecting the laws of your countries. If in your country you can do this job without a license is not a problem lead a group in Italy. Always remembering that in Italy the TL is responsible for the activities and safety of the group.

Myself as an American living in the USA, can act as an American Tour Director in Italy, bringing clients to Italy for an organized tour without being in violation of Italian laws and there is no requirement of having an Italian license for Accompagnatore Turistico?

Furthermore is this opinion or do you have any Italian resource that would explain and clarify this in writing?

Thank you

Posted by
8628 posts

In the U.S., there is no national certification for tour directors. In fact, only a handful of cities requires a guide license and they are disappearing. (Those cities requiring exams to get a guide license are being sued on the grounds of freedom of speech.)

However, if you go to a school lilke ITMI you will be considered a certified tour director with proper training. You would learn how to handle all types of situations including the one mentioned by Ricky above. And they will teach you the rules of operating as a tour director/manager in most countries.

Why don't you get in touch with ITMI and ask them. The Italian law was put in to protect Italians. I understand that. And anyone working in that field in Italy is going to say you can't do it. But what is the reality?

Of course, you don't have to call it a tour. You can call it a Photography seminar or Photography training or a hands on photogrpaphic experience in Italy.

Posted by
40 posts

In my opinion a tour guide license shouldn’t be required in Italy, or elsewhere, because this can lead to paradoxical situations.
For example an art historian, professor at a University, could decide to take her family and a few friends for a trip to Siena, and once there if she starts talking about the history of what they’re seeing, a licensed tour guide could inform the local police. I understand that it is done to protect a specific group of workers, but I don’t think that’s the right way, and I agree, it is against freedom of speech.

Posted by
40 posts

Or better, there should be licensed tour guides, but people talking to friends about architecture in a piazza shouldn’t fear to be fined for this.

Posted by
96 posts

Myself as an American living in the USA, can act as an American Tour Director in Italy, bringing clients to Italy for an organized tour without being in violation of Italian laws and there is no requirement of having an Italian license for Accompagnatore Turistico?

Exactly: you do not need an Italian License.

Furthermore is this opinion or do you have any Italian resource that would explain and clarify this in writing?

Well... is not so easy find it!
The reference page of the Minister is this one: https://www.beniculturali.it/mibac/export/MiBAC/sito-MiBAC/Contenuti/Ministero/Turismo/visualizza_asset.html_963412715.html
This is the best document, even if it talks 95% about Touristic Guide: https://www.beniculturali.it/mibac/multimedia/MiBAC/documents/1395150362355_Regolamentazione.pdf
The phrase for you is "Per le professioni di accompagnatore turistico e di direttore tecnico di agenzia di viaggi e turismo il
riconoscimento è possibile anche solo sulla base dell’esperienza professionale purché rispondente ai
criteri indicati rispettivamente dagli artt. 30 e 29 del d.lgs. 206/07."

To explain: the European Union says that a regular worker can operate everywhere within the European Union. Is valid even for a guide. If you are not licensed in Italy, you have to prove that you are a regular guide.
Theoretically is valid even for a Tour Leader, but few European countries have this role licensed: for this reason is required only a self-certified "professional experience".
In general the same rules is applied even to any other worldwide country for Tour Leaders (while for guides you need another kind of authorization). Honestly, few tour leaders are sending the form for "temporary services" on Italian territory, but if you want to be sure you can question the Minister or simply send (once a year) the form: https://www.beniculturali.it/mibac/multimedia/MiBAC/documents/1395150914986_Accom_extra.pdf

The Italian law was put in to protect Italians.
For tourism, the licenses are made to protect workers in Italy. I have several not-Italian colleagues (living in Italy) licensed as Tour Leaders or Guides.

For example an art historian, professor at a University, could decide to take her family and a few friends for a trip to Siena, and once there if she starts talking about the history of what they’re seeing, a licensed tour guide could inform the local police.
Yes and no. In general is the standard excuse of the illegal guides. "I was only explaining a little bit the church to my friend". And often the "friends" don't know his/her surname and sometimes even the name. The policemen/women doing touristic controls are trained to understand if a "speecher" is only talking/explaining to friends or is doing a guided tour. Unfortunately there are few controls yet.
There is freedom of speech and freedom of market in Italy, but if I start to sell ice-cream in front of the Coliseum without a regular authorization probably I will be immediately fined and/or arrested. I can do any kind of job I want in Italy, but respecting the laws. Remember that freedom and chaos (in US probably you say "anarchy", but in Italy this word has a little different meaning) are two different things.

Posted by
67 posts

Although the distinction between the role of guide/leader is clear on paper it is not always so in reality. The reality is that local guides, tourist officials etc. that perceive you as acting as a guide (whether or you actually are doing so is besides the point here) can cause a lot of headaches if they want to. Some may argue that as a photography instructor you are in fact operating as a "guide" for your clients. You may also want to emphasise to your clients that you will not be providing any traditional guide services just to avoid disappointment. I am not sure about the level of services you will be providing but in my experience it is crucial to avoid any confrontations with local guides/officials in front of your clients, especially if this is supposed to be a high-end/premium experience. Do you plan on going to big cities or small towns?

Some people in this thread are dismissive of local regulations but I would caution you against going to Italy without any certification even if it is a certificate from your local tourist or guide association that you can wave around.

Aless - Does this scenario you describe not depend on the number of people in the group? Up until a few years ago (I'm not sure about the most recent rules) it was impossible to take students into a museum of groups more than 4 because I would be fined for not having the "right to speak." It is true that this is less of a problem in the open air but it also depends where you are working.

Posted by
40 posts

@Ricky
You’re right if this art historian were in bad faith. But she could really be an art historian, or an art history graduate, or a very cultivated connoisseur. I know a little about this, maybe not as much as you do, but I do a little.
In Italy, a Art History graduate has (or at least had until very recently, and I don’t really think anything has changed) ONLY a sort of “facilitated” path to get a tour guide license, and a not too much facilitated one at that, since the big monstrous exam is still there. But if she talked about the David of Michelangelo to a gathering of some of her friends, technically, she could be fined. Law is law. If a licensed tour guide calls the local police, and the local police finds out that this super specialized but still “unofficial” guide is an art historian, why should this exempt her from being fined? There’s a precise law that says you have to be a licensed tour guide. It’a senseless law.
If some Italian tour guides is reading this thread and wants to clarify if this apply only if there’s a money transaction, I really hope to hear more about this. But I’m not sure the difference is about money, I think it is about speaking to a group. Because even if there wasn’t any money involved, this would still mean taking away work from licensed tour guides.

@tigerbull
I’ve never heard about a minimum number of people that would exempt this law to be enforced.
That said, I’m not sure about how massively local police is running after art historians “unofficial” tour guides when a licensed tour guide blows the whistle. But technically, they could. And if they find someone breaking the law, they have to report it.

Posted by
67 posts

@Aless - in France it used to be up to 6 people incl. the lecturer/guide/speaker and this held true even I was explaining something to my students or (visiting) relatives. When I was doing research in Florence and took some students to the Uffizi I was told by a colleague to keep the group size small to not attract attention from professional tour guides.

OP how many people are you intending/hoping to bring on this trip? If you have a small-ish group you might be able to coast by and argue that you are just visiting as a group (although I would never recommend going unprepared). But if you are more numerous it will be difficult to maintain that you are not acting as a kind of guide.

Posted by
15578 posts

All this discussion has me thinking of our friend, Alessandro Schezzini, who runs his famous "Bar" tour in Venice. Alessandro takes pains to inform us "I am not a licensed tour guide, therefor I cannot take you into any sites in Venice". Nonetheless, he "guides" groups of up to 20 tourists through the streets of Venice to his chosen bacari for wine and cicchetti, giving a class in Venetian drinking culture. He also does tours for photographers to various scenic spots for picture taking sessions. Maybe he has a "Tour Manager" license. Anyway, since he is a local, no one seems to dime on him.

Posted by
40 posts

Sorry Ricky, I read the posts too quickly and I thought you were only an accompagnatore turistico and not both accompagnatore and guida turistica.
If you knew and could say something about the need for a money transaction in order for a not licensed guide, though specialized, to be fined by the local police, that would be great.

Posted by
20632 posts

Remember RoninRome??? I think that was his handle. He was the husband of an America art professor who had a teaching assignment in Rome, (maybe a sabbatical). He provided a lot of good step by step information on a web site and I think at a later time was working as a guide in Rome. Later they returned to Atlanta and he was working with a travel agency but he has gone silent. Haven't seen a posting from him in a couple of years or more. Someone needs to ringing him up as he probably in in the best position to answer the above question.

Posted by
40 posts

Both this person and his wife would be in a perfect position to offer really useful information.

Posted by
96 posts

The activity as a guide is not related to the number of people in the group or if you are paid by the tourists or not. Usually if you are explaining a monument to a group of 20 people (maybe with a radio equipment) is difficult says that is only a group of friends.
The reference law never talk about money, so is not a matter if you are paid by the tourists or not. An example could be a guide who is working for the City Tourist Office and the city provide a free tour to the tourists (is not so common in Italy, but sometimes happens for festivals or special periods or special groups): in this case the tour is perceived as free, but the guide must be a licensed one. Sometimes the guide is not paid, but a free tour to specialist (for example foreign tour operators) as advertisement.

The law is not senseless. There are a lot of illegal guides, hiding just under excuses. And I never heard of somebody fined because was explaining a monument to friends.

About controls there is a point to keep in mind: usually in touristic cities and places there are much more controls. Controls are made by local police (usually policemen/women not in uniform). Local police in touristic cities are usually well trained to recognize a guide from a person who is talking to friends; in not touristic places is not so. Sometimes there are more discussion if the policeman is not really trained to this kind of control.

@Aless: try to think the opposite. Why a guide skilled on a topic cannot make a lesson to a group of students inside a school? Because to teach you must be a licensed professor. There is an exam, a selection, and if you pass it you can teach. If you don't pass it you cannot teach to a group of students.

who runs his famous "Bar" tour in Venice

This is a good example of a borderline activity. Is it a guided tour or not? Can be fined this guide? There is a big problem in Italy: a lot of laws are written by Regions, so are not exactly the same everywhere.
The definition for guide is "Is a Touristic guide whoever, as professional activity, guide single person or groups during the visit to Art Masterpiece, Museums, Galleries, Archeological sites, explaining historical, artistic, monumental, landscape, natural, etnological and productive attractions." This is the definition written in the Emilia-Romagna law (I live and work as guide in Emilia, so I know much better my reference law). As "etnological and productive attractions" are considered for example a Parmigiano-Reggiano producer or the Lamborghini factory: so to guide a group in those kind of places or do a general food tour is considered in Emilia an activity for a Guide.
In Veneto the definition is " The Touristic Guide lead as profession individuals or groups, during the visits to Art Masterpiece, museums, galleries, Arheologial sites, explaining historical, artistic, monumental, landscape and natural attractions". Is not written etnological or production! So in Venice you can do a food tour without being a Touristic Guide: if your friend comes to Emilia doing the same activity probably will be fined.
I know: very technical and puzzling...

To come back to the Original Post, talking of the definition for Guida, you can easily find that is not written nothing about "professional explanation". For example how to take a photo, the use of a camera, exposition time and so on. Of course a detailed technical explanation inside or near a monument can be confused with the explanation OF the monument, especially if not done in Italian.

Posted by
40 posts

Sorry, I disagree Ricky. You cannot compare tour guiding to teaching in a school, if only because teachers are paid, and here I was talking about unpaid art graduates talking with at least the same depth as a tour guide about the monuments of Florence, to a group of, say, 10 friends.
I still think of course there should be licensed guides, but this law makes very little sense if it can sanction knowledgeable people who are “tour guiding” a group of friends for free.

Posted by
96 posts

@ Aless
the point is: if you are stopped during a Police control while you are explaining a monument, how can you demonstrate that the people in your group hadn't paid you? Usually are done indirect check-up. For example inquire the members of the group about you. If nobody knows your surname, where you live, your job... is almos surely a illegal group tour and you are fined.
How many times a person lead for free a group with 10/20 friends to visit a city or a monument? Could happen scarcely in special occasion. Maybe the day of the final graduation at the university and you lead a group of friends to see the city. But even in Bologna it happens very rarely. And a group of friends usually acts in a very different way than a group of tourists, so if you stay in a touristic place you immediately recognize what is happening.
If I am in Piazza Maggiore in Bologna and a group is crossing the square I understand if is a group of tourists, a group of friends or a group of professional going to a conference. A policeman who stay in the same place everyday has the same skill.

Posted by
96 posts

I never talk about how deep an explanation is. A Guide is not omniscient and usually a professor IS more skilled about his topic.
But, really: how many times professors are glad to spend their free time to do "lessons" for free to friends (and big groups of friends)? Once a year? If so the chances to be fined are so low that is not to take in account.
I know professors that do this activity more often, but usually they ask for a little "refund". In fact is a temporary second job. The tourists are often the same, so he call them as "friends". But they regularly offer some little vacation and he is only doing a little explanation, in change of the payment of the travel, the hotel, the restaurant. This is the typical professor who only explanation "for friends", but is usually acting as an illegal guide; while not doing all arrangements, so acting as illegal Tour Leader and illegal Tour Manager.
I have a lot of colleagues that work as professors and do as second job the Touristic Guide, regularly licensed. If you are an art/history professor have the license is quite easy and cheap: the only matter could be know a language.

Posted by
67 posts

Ricky notes an important point here: being able to speak the language. This makes things a lot easier and - in my limited experience in Italy - makes officials more likely to see through the fingers if you do run into problems.

Posted by
40 posts

I was talking about well meaning knowledgeable people who could incur a fine. If you think it’s rare, well, it may be, still the law is there. We agree to disagree, as they say.

Posted by
40 posts

Being able to understand and to speak the language is so important, maybe it’s the first advice to give to the OP.

Posted by
96 posts

Speaking the native language of the place you are leading a group is always important. Remember that anywhere in the World the Police and Emergency Services must speak a foreign language. When you are a tour leader and nothing bad happen during a tour you are almost a tourist and you enjoy the tour (you have only to respect timetable, pay the services and so on). When there are emergencies of any kind (not only medical: think if your bus stops and you have to find a replacement or wait hours in the middle of nowhere for the repair) often you have to act to people that probably don't speak a word of any foreign language.

@Aless. As told before, I never listen of people fined talking to friends about a monument. In fact the law is clear: "job", "professional services", "profession". I know of professors and teachers claiming to be fined while only talking to "friends", but professors well known by local guides and police to have regular (at least once a month) guided tours. And they don't do it for free, but as a second job.
I give you an example of an illegal activity and you say that was wrong. Because the job of a teacher is different than the job of a guide. Are you sure? You perceive it as different, but are two jobs that must be done (legally) only after demonstrate you are able to do it (a qualification exam). But the job of guides is perceived by a lot of people only as an hobby. So a hobby can be done by anybody, even if not qualified. Teaching instead is a real job, so clearly cannot be made by everybody without a long training.

Posted by
40 posts

Ricky I was talking about well-meaning, honest people. And probably there should be a minimum number of people, maybe 4 or 6, as in France, to whom you can give a lecture on monuments and still be within the law.
I also think that too much regulation works against the creativity of people. We have so much bureaucracy in Italy. For example, the person in Venice with the enogastronomic tour whose activity you called “borderline”, meaning there’s a grey area in the law, or better, that different Regions have slightly different regulations: his activity sprung from a tiny bit of freedom from bureaucracy, and thrived in a space possibly not thoroughly legislated yet. Of course he pays his taxes. But there was a little space for creating something new. I wish there were a little (just a little) less bureaucracy in Italy, not more.
But I do understand your point.

Posted by
96 posts

Probably you don't know that there are a lot of tourists asking private tours. A family of fours for a standard regular walking spends 15/20€ per person, to start at a definite time and in a group of maybe 30/40 people. Several families prefer to spend 100/120€ for a private tour, going where they like more, starting when they prefer: only spending 30/40€ more.
For this reason the number of members of a group cannot be a discriminating factor.
I don't know in detail the French touristic law, but I suppose that a guide whom work only with families and individuals have to be licensed, like in Italy.

Of course he pays his taxes.

I hope too, but is another question. There are even licensed guides that works "in black", being paid only cash.

About different laws I am agree, but are at least 30 years that Italian government is working for a "federalism", or at least some kind of independence in issuing laws. Tourism, sanity, education, agriculture! Any region can decide some things by itself. Creating confusion, mistakes and gray areas.

Posted by
1783 posts

Hello All,
Frank reached out to me to ask for some feedback on the question of taking folks on a tour in Italy. 10+ years ago, I lived in Rome for a few years and learned about the requirements of guiding. Today, I am a travel advisor working for an American company, so I've seen all sides of this question.

From the travel perspective, a "tour director/coordinator" is far different from a guide. As an American-based company, we very infrequently work with guides directly. Rather, we work with coordinators - often called DMC's (Destination Management Companies). We do this worldwide - including Italy - and most of our DMC partners are located in-country (although not all). There are different rules/regulations for every country and a DMC has the local knowledge, expertise, and resources to best coordinate the design and implementation of events, activities, tours, transportation, and trip logistics. They also have great "buying" power with their local connections and lower cost contract-hotel-pricing (room prices we could not get independently). When we work with guides, and we want the best guides - often specific guides - we coordinate these arrangements through DMC's.

There are some travel advisors who DO take their clients on trips all around the world - including Italy. They are not licensed guides, nor is their company "licensed" in Italy. Yet, they are licensed and insured through their American company (required for travel advisors). I myself carry a $5 million professional liability errors and omissions insurance policy. The travel advisor, working independently - or through a DMC - coordinates the hotels, transfers, trains, restaurant reservations, etc.

But when it comes to the tour segment of their trip, the travel advisor HIRES A LOCAL GUIDE - either through a DMC or independently. The interpretation of "touring" vs. "guiding" is different in every country (probably every municipality!). And there is nothing worse than your tour - or your trip - being interrupted by a legal issue such as this. Thus, reputable travel advisors only work with local, licensed, and vetted guides - certified in the country, district, or city where their clients are touring. The liability and trip interruption is too much of a risk.

So back to the original question: Could a person combine their love of Italy and photography to coordinate tours in Italy?

I suppose you could, but I have to admit, doing groups is TOUGH. Group travel has been likened to "herding cats" and that's a pretty good analogy. Legally, you could bring them over - you could coordinate the air, the transfers, the trains, the hotels... but when you get out into a city... Is that a tour?

Once you start providing that touring-level-of-service, you are stepping on toes. And in Italy, the folks who will follow up on you - and point you out to the authorities - will be the guides (or the local, licensed photographers). They take this as a personal affront because IT IS HARD to get that guide certification, that local license. (A mastering of the Italian language comes in handy here!).

Because there are travel advisors or academia who bring groups of travelers to foreign lands, yes I think all that trip logistics can be done. But if you start "guiding" (and again, what is "guiding" is open to LOCAL interpretation), then you've crossed the line. Not sure if that answers the question posed... and there are far more parts to this regarding BUILDING the trip... but you can certainly bring a group over. It's what you do with them when they're in-country that will determine your viability or liability.

Posted by
22 posts

Hi Ron,

but you can certainly bring a group over. It's what you do with them when they're in-country that will determine your viability or liability.

I listed this as a typical scenario to give someone a better idea of what I am asking about doing could you comment on the following hypothetical example... Could you point out any of the following situations where I would be required to hire a local Tour Manager or would be in violation of Italian laws and in danger of being fined for operating without the proper licenses?

Blockquote
A typical scenario is maybe we have 8 clients, 5 of them interested in the photography activities and 3 with no photography interests but along with their spouses to enjoy the cultural aspects of the tour.
Day 2
1) In the morning I pick up the 5 photo clients for some sunrise photography out in the countryside, at the same time my wife meets the 3 non-photography clients and they go for a walk in the village for some sight-seeing, my wife accompanies them and says there is a nice cathedral to go see, however, she reminds them I am not a licensed guide so we can walk there together and see it, we can go inside and afterward we will go to the local bakery for sweets and coffee and wait for the others to come back. At no time does my wife talk about the cathedral's history or point out historic frescos or anything of the sort, she simply accompanies them and walks with them afterward to the bakery.
2) We all meet for lunch together.
3) In the afternoon we drive them all to a nearby larger town and this time we are all meeting a licensed tour guide to guide us all through the local museum for 2 hours and then to the village square for 1 hour where she explains the unique history of the town we are in and points out some unique things around the square and their history.
4) After this, the photographer clients and myself set about walking through the town with their assignment to take lovely pictures, I simply follow along with them and we discuss technical photography issues, maybe I take a few pictures with them and perhaps I give advice on how to best capture the lovely fountain in the village square with the light just right...
5) At the same time, the other 3 non-photographers and my wife go to the local spa for spa treatments.
6) We all meet up for apertivo and then dinner.
7) After dinner 2 of the photography clients want to take part in my offered sunset photography session by driving over to a nearby hill that overlooks the village, all the rest of the clients decide to either turn in for bed or spend their free time walking around the village.
8) After the sunset photography, I drop the 2 photo clients back at the hotel, say good night and we do it all over again the next day.

Thank you very much.

Posted by
96 posts

Group travel has been likened to "herding cats" and that's a pretty good analogy.

I never used this analogy, but probably I start to use it! thanks.
Your explanation is perfect and give exactly the point of the situation.
I can add that in Italy DMCs are usually little Tour Operator specialized on a topic (I work with one specialized in Ferrari activities) or an area (another one I work with is specialized on Emilia-Romagna).

Posted by
23579 posts

Ron,

!!!!!!!

All I can say is how very very happy I am to see you around here again.

I have a feeling that perhaps you may not be around for too long but I certainly hope you stick around for a little while.

It sounds like you are surviving our current crisis at least in body if not in spirit..

Surely it can’t be so many years since you left Rome. I used to rely on your hundreds and thousands of webpages for on the ground information so much. I remember with great fondness your relating how life on a motorino is.

Posted by
1783 posts

Mike, I am not an expert on Italian law so it would be improper for me to offer expertise on any of your criteria. And again, the interpretation of each scenario could be different depending on your location in Italy.
Because you are looking to operate a commercial endeavor in a foreign country and thus will be subject to their laws/rules/restrictions, my recommendation is to hire an Italian attorney – or someone in the US that has this type of legal experience.

My interpretation is that your company would be more like a DMC, but no doubt some local guides in Italy would not see it that way. Your company would have to be US-licensed, insured… but compliant with Italian law when operating there.

For example, is there a commercial license requirement when you are transporting clients in a commercial vehicle (rental van)? Will a US commercial vehicle driver’s license be viable in Italy for this type of service? As the driver, what is your required liability coverage? Is there a limit to what size vehicle you can commercially drive in Italy? If you have a vehicle of 10 persons (8 clients + you and your wife), would you require special parking passes in some municipalities? Note – there were new rules for Italian transfer companies & drivers this year and it has been a pain for all of us in the travel business. I would imagine some transfer companies could be as sensitive as local guides!

And those are just some of the transport questions that come to mind. When we work with local DMC’s, they handle all these “specifics” for us. But as an independent, you’ll have to know the answers to these and other questions. We’ve lived overseas for 16+ years and we still run into new challenges almost weekly.

It sounds like a great opportunity, but it will take an investment of time and money. I’d suggest you reach out to legal experts and businesses who currently operate independently in Italy. They can provide better answers!

Posted by
2865 posts

To Aless and others who say that requiring a guide who takes a group through a tourist site to be licensed is an infringement of free speech, I must point out that free speech is a legal grant from a government. In Turkey, for example, Orhan Pamuk was prosecuted for insulting Turkishness in his books. A number of Muslim countries forbid speech that denigrates the Prophet Muhammed. The U.S. and the U.K. have imprisoned people who spoke out against various wars. My point is that licensing requirements have nothing to do with any fundamental rights except those of a government to regulate commerce. This thread has sounded, to me, very much like a discussion of how to evade Italian regulations. In my opinion, it’s their country; and they can make whatever rules they like. As foreigners, you can like it or not; but if you get caught breaking those rules, be prepared for the consequences.

Posted by
96 posts

This thread has sounded, to me, very much like a discussion of how to evade Italian regulations.

I don't believe so. I trust the OP was to receive trusted information about how to handle a tour, balancing between what he can do by himself and when to hire a professional.

About driving: what Ron is saying is true. Remember for example that Uber in Italy is illegal, because to operate as a professional driver is another kind of license called NCC (Noleggio Con Conducente) or taxi license. And like for a guide, is not a matter about how many people you are driving: if you are doing a professional driving service for two people you can be fined and your car blocked.

Posted by
40 posts

@Rosalyn
I’m not a foreigner, I’m Italian. I wasn’t campaigning to abolish tour guiding regulations as if they were against Freedom of Speech.
Rationally, as is the case in Italy, if an art history college graduate cannot lecture a group of her friends in Florence about Santa Maria del Fiore, it just seems odd to me.
Tigerbull mentioned that in France you can speak freely (without being a licensed tour guide) about art history to a maximum of 6 people without incurring a fine. That seemed a very reasonable regulation to me.

Posted by
8628 posts

Ron's idea about using a DMC is actually very good. (I've worked with some in the U.S.) Let them do much of the work for you. They now the rules, regulations and the ins and outs of the local areas. You can still be there talking about photograpy but the DMC can make all the other arrangement. And they take care of all the headaches as well.

I'll give you an example. many universities offer alumni trips. The universities don't actually do all the arranging for the trips, they let a travel company do that. Even many of the National Geographic trips are arranged by an outside company.

Another example is an author I am aware of who writes both children's books and vegetarian cookbooks. She would hold week long trips to italy on writing and cooking. On the days they left the hotel, she hired a local guide to take the group through the local markets. She still talked about the food but the local guide was there to "run interference" in case the local authorities came around.

Posted by
11572 posts

Ron:

Surely it can’t be so many years since you left Rome. I used to rely
on your hundreds and thousands of webpages for on the ground
information so much.

Just echoing Nigel's sentiments: Hard to believe it's been so long, and I sure do miss the always-reliable "Ron in Rome" website. Hope all's well with you and yours! :O)