Please sign in to post.

First Time Using a Private Local Guide and I’m Hooked!

Thanks to Rick for listing out trusted local guides in his Italy Guidebook. I’ve always just searched TripAdvisor for group tours and joined in with the herd. This time, as I planned my trip to Rome, I decided to try a private local guide for my party of 4. I contacted all of the guides listed in Rick’s book and they were all very responsive. I don’t think you could go wrong with any of them, but something about Carla Zaia (CarlaRomeGuide), clicked with me. We crafted a perfect itinerary over two days that worked so well for us. You don’t have to go on a tour at the crack of dawn to have a good experience. We actually did a 1:30 pm tour of the Vatican (including the Sistine Chapel) and St. Peter’s Basilica within 4 hours. It was not crowded and it allowed us to have the freedom to enjoy a leisurely stroll around town in the morning hours. On the second day we met at 3:00 pm for a tour of the Colosseum (including the Arena). BTW - I’ve done the Underground tour on a previous visit and I highly recommend it. My Colosseum ticket included the Roman Forum, but because I’ve done that before, I asked Carla to customize the second portion of our afternoon. She suggested we cut through the Forum for a speedy review and then we popped out right at the Vittorio Emanuele Monument in Piazza Venezia. After some very informative explanations of the monument and the area, we swung by the Jewish Ghetto. All of this felt very off the beaten path but still very iconic Rome. A ton of information and sites packed into just 3 hours. None of this would have been possible without a private guide. It was not super expensive and the value was beyond compare. You set your own pace, ask as many questions as you like, spend as little or as much time exploring the sites. I highly recommend trying it at least once.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention a little more about Carla herself. She is passionate about Rome, knows the City inside and out, knows history and art, and describes it all to you in a very engaging way. She is generous with her time and suggestions. Even before I booked her, she shared a lot of great tips. If you’re visiting Rome, she’s the guide I’d use for sure!

Happy to share more of my experiences if anyone is interested. I visited Milan, Rome, and the Amalfi Coast over the past two weeks in August.

Posted by
337 posts

Thanks for the suggestion. I will be in Milan for a week in mid-October; my first visit. I have Last Supper ticket, will be overnight on Isola Bella in Stresa for one night and plan a day in Cremona. I have my eye on the other major sites in Milan. Do you have an experience or guide you'd recommend? A site most folks skip that you enjoyed? DId you visit the near-by cemetery?

Posted by
2271 posts

I’m glad you had a great experience but from your title, I was expecting to read terrible things when you said “I’ll never go back”. She sounds like a wonderful tour guide! The title totally misled me.

Posted by
1563 posts

A good guide can make such a difference. I’ve had a number of great guides on my RS tours. Both main guides and local ones. I hope to use some private guides on future trips.

I’m glad you had such a great experience.

Posted by
2443 posts

Well, I understood the title to mean “I tried this new way, and now I’ll never go back to the old way.” But yes, I can understand how it might mean the opposite too. Think positive, I guess!

Posted by
4 posts

I updated the title… totally missed how it could be mis-read. But I guess it was an attention grabber LOL.

Posted by
4 posts

Becky - I would check out Rick’s guidebook for guide suggestions. I only used Carla in Rome. As for what else to see in Milano, I would def recommend buying a lift ticket to the top of the Duomo. It’s spectacular up there! Super touristy thing to do is to get a Spritz at the Aperol Terrazza in Piazza del Duomo. It was pricey but the drink was the best spritz I had in Italy. I guess if you’re called the Aperol Terrazza, it better be good! In the Galleria, don’t forget to put your foot on the testicles of the Torino mosaic and spin around clockwise for good luck. You’ll feel silly, but everyone does it. For day trips from Milan, you can get to Lake Como with an hour train ride. Verona is a very pretty town as well. You can see Juliet’s balcony. Hope this helps. Happy Travels!

Posted by
2271 posts

I love your new title and am still glad you had such a fantastic time with Carla. I might hire a private guide to tour the Vatican again and especially the Sistine Chapel.

Posted by
2956 posts

Agree totally. We usually travel with another couple and have used private guides in Poland, Croatia, Amsterdam, Dublin, and Edinburgh. We’ll be in Spain and have private guides, from Rick’s book, for Madrid so far. Also, I have looked at group tours and many times they will say, if you would like a private tour, add xxx euros. Will be doing this in Granada.

Posted by
10513 posts

Great post! I agree wholeheartedly that private guides are worth every cent.

Gaetano Manfredi for Pompeii, for example, Francesca Caruso and Sonia Tavoletta in Roma, Paris Muse personal guide for the Louvre: too may to name. Truly enhances the experience.

Posted by
1286 posts

I agree with you.

I took my first sefl planned tour this past May. Prior to that I had been taking RS tours. One of the most enjoyable parts of the tour for me was the knowledgeable local guides. So I booked guides at all of the local sites that were important to us. Not a stinker in the bunch!

Posted by
5528 posts

We used local guides this year in Siena and Venice, and had great experiences in both places. We will definitely do it again.

Posted by
3957 posts

Thanks for sharing this. I couldn’t agree more!
Our favorite guides:
Rome: Micaela Provancello
Florence: Giovanna Bossi Rosenfeld
Paris: Karen Reb Rudel
Athens: Salvador Levy
Budapest: Timea Tarjani
Cesky Krumlov: Karolina Kortusova
Prague: Yvonne Weisgrab, Pavel Batel, Jason (Living Prague)
Amsterdam: Naomi Koopmans
Some of these guides were recommended by relatives, friends, blogs, RS and this forum.
We have also taken small group walking tours over the years as well. We’ve never regretted hiring a tour guide. I have a favorite blog called that has a lot of tips for hiring a guide.

Posted by
65 posts

We are fans of touring with personal guides also, especially when visiting ancient ruins and large museums.

When traveling with a group, hiring a personal guide can actually be more economical than taking a group tour since typically you pay a personal guide by the hour no matter how many people in your group. Another advantage of touring with personal guides is that you can customize your tour to reflect your interests. For example, in Rome we added a visit to Basilica San Clemente when we toured the Colosseum, Forum and Palatine Hill with Marta Marsili. I have also found that in spending a few hours with a local guide I learn little interesting tidbits about what life is like in the country or city I'm visiting. I remember Marta (Italian born) saying that she needed to use subtitles to understand the local dialect when watching a popular Italian TV show about the mafia that was filmed in Naples!

Adding to Laurel's and Janis' lists:

Italy: Marta Marsili (Rome), Paul Costa (Florence), Roberto Becchi (Tuscany)

Croatia: Maja Benzon (Diocletian's Palace)

Spain: Margarita Ortiz de Landazuri (Alhambra)

Greece: Patty Staikou (Epidavros/Mycenae), Georgia Hiatsu (Delphi), Demetra-Context Tours (National Archeological Museum, Athens)

Posted by
4 posts

JudyB - I would definitely recommend hiring Carla for your Vatican experience. I’ve been 4 times and I learned a lot from her. Her description of the Sistine Chapel was wonderful and detailed, and her descriptions of the Michelangelo and Raphael dynamic (Michelangelo and everyone actually) was super interesting context which made me appreciate the chapel even more. You can tell her that Angela M recommended her to you. Have a wonderful visit!