Guide at a Glance
Rome, Lazio, Italy
Heritage-History Tour, Religious Tour, Sightseeing
The Passion of Christ
Get to Know Roman Tour Guide Niccolò Arcangeli
My first memory of Rome is a black and white picture of my great grandparents in Trastevere. It was a sunny winter’s day, they were dressed in heavy clothes and you could see their hope for a better life from the expression in their faces. My grandfather went on to become the driver for the King of Italy, and my father lived in the Royal Palace on the Quirinale Hill. When I came into the picture my mother took me to Rome and I was fascinated about the people living in the “Eternal City.” Rome is my passion and I’m lucky to live here.
How did you break into the business of tour guiding?
I have always been interested in culture and I have a degree in art and history, but I never planned to get into tour guiding. Actually I fell into it by chance – my wife told me about a tour guiding competition in Rome and I entered. And now, here I am.
How did you come up with the idea of creating your With a Roman Guide company?
I have worked for many tour agencies over the years, but I always wanted to be free and independent. Making the decision to go out on my own was easy, really.
What is the biggest challenge as a business owner?
The biggest challenge is keeping ahead of the competition. Tour guiding in Rome is like swimming in a sea of sharks. It can also be difficult when you consider that around 60% of tour operators are not actually based in Rome so they pay less tax than I do. But that’s a whole other story.
Setting up my own business and becoming totally independent is definitely a highlight. It has been very rewarding to create my perfect job, on my own.
What does a typical day look like for you?
I generally operate two tours a day, mostly The Vatican and the Colosseum.
Have you developed a certain style of guiding over the years?
Yes I have developed a very flexible style based on years of practice. I love meeting new people and I always try to learn something new on each tour. I also make a point of listening to clients and tailoring the tour to suit their needs.
I once had a lady on a tour bring a transparent envelope with her that had a strange grey dust inside. At the end of the tour I realized that it was empty and she confessed that it had contained her husband’s ashes.
Bringing history to life and showing people how we are similar to ancient times and not the modern day.
What is the best tour you have ever led?
The tour I’m going to do tomorrow.
What’s the most bizarre experience you’ve had on a guided tour?
I once had a lady on a tour bring a transparent envelope with her that had a strange grey dust inside. At the end of the tour I realized that it was empty and she confessed that it had contained her husband’s ashes. She had scattered them at every place we visited.
Definitely the low season from November to February!
As an experienced guide yourself, are there any questions that you would recommend travellers ask their guide before they go on a tour?
They should always ask about the dress code beforehand, especially when visiting holy places and archaeological sites. It’s also important to ask about what kind of clothes and shoes to wear.
In your view, what elements are essential to a successful tour?
Happiness. Simple as that!
And finally, if you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go?
I’d like to see Jerusalem and the Holy Land. I would love to discover and explore the roots of my culture.
Niccolò has a degree in art and performing arts and is a licensed tour guide of Rome. He graduated from the Worldwide Sommelier Association years ago, but history is his daily bread. Niccolò is a great story teller and for him, every tour is an exciting experience. He was also born and bred in Rome and he knows the legends and fascinating stories this city has to offer. He is happy to guide you through the Eternal City because Rome is in his DNA.
To learn more about Niccolò Arcangeli, read our interview with him entitled, “When in Rome: a Q&A with a Roman Tour Guide.”