Get to Know Italy Guide Adrienne Emily Davis

While Adrienne Emily Davis was born in Portland, Oregon, she always had a passion for Italy — passed down from her grandfather who fought there in the Second World War. After studying art history at Portland State University, she perfected her Italian and specialized in renaissance art in Florence, Italy. Now living in Rome, she runs A&R Tours with her partner Renato Solpietro, offering customized tours in Rome, Naples, Lazio, Campania, Vatican City and the Amalfi Coast. And she’s won an award for the most “smiley” guide in Rome.
How did you get into your field of expertise?

My grandfather fought in WWII in Naples and fell in love with Italy. He traveled there a lot as I was growing up and always came home with intriguing stories and pictures. I lived in Italy as an au pair when I was 19 and fell in love with the art and history, (so) I went home and started studying art history at the university.

How did you make the transition to becoming an Italy tour guide?

After college I packed up all my things and moved “indefinitely” to Italy from Portland, Oregon. I started out at a big company putting the tours together until I felt comfortable enough to do it on my own. My first tour was at the Vatican Museums with a group of 25 people — I was terrified, but it went really well. After a year of intense experience, my now-partner and I decided to break off and start our own company, catering to smaller, more private (groups).

What types of tours do you offer?

All of the classics in Italy: a private boat to Murano Island in Venice for a glass-blowing display, the Uffizi Gallery and original David in Florence, no-line tickets and private tours at the Vatican, Coliseum and Roman Forum in Rome, Pompeii and Herculaneum in Naples, the Amalfi Coast. We really love to offer out-of-the-box tours to people who are looking for a local experience — Chianti Hills wine tour with private driver, ancestor research anywhere along the boot, cooking classes, food and wine tours, secret treasures of Rome tour by car, newly opened archaeological sites in Naples, glass-bottom boat tours to view the ancient city under the sea … anything original and fun!

What does a typical day look like for you?

In the high season it’s like this: Wake up early for a nice Italian breakfast (cappuccino and cornetto) and get the train into the city centre to meet my guests at the Coliseum for a tour of ancient Rome. Take a nice lunch pause, with my guests, in my favourite local little restaurant to get some more energy for walking. Then we do an afternoon walking tour of all the great fountains, monuments and characteristic little streets of Rome — stopping along the way for a gelato and or another caffe’.

What’s your favourite tour?

Any of the off-the-beaten-path tours. Lately I love doing Calcata, a medieval town that is perched up on a hilltop with fortress walls, just outside of Rome. It’s home to about 65 people who are all artists from around the world, and we know almost all of them now!

Do you have a certain style of guiding, or do you just run with it on the day?

My team’s style is friendly, easy-going and very smiley. Our motto is: “Now you have a friend in Italy!” We don’t count the minutes on a tour — we are flexible to make any accommodations you may need and we are always ready with a smile to tell you some nice anecdote, not just names and dates.

What’s the most challenging part of your job?

When a big family all wants to do different things on the same vacation sometimes it takes time to find that balance that will please everyone. But we get it done.

What’s the most bizarre experience you’ve had on a guided tour?

When I worked for that big company they would throw big groups of strangers together for the same tour. Many of them had different expectations. Once I had a group of half Germans and half Japanese and they were all fighting about what they wanted to do on the tour. It took some major breathing and some joking on my part to calm them all down and continue with the tour in a way (that) made everyone happy.

As an experienced guide yourself, can you explain the benefits of hiring a guide?

You get so much more out of your time with a guide. You spend a lot to get to Italy and if you do it on your own you miss the significance of most everything. It’s great to be with a local while you are here, have someone to suggest places to eat and other things to do. With a guide, depth and meaning are put into the hours you spend at a site. Italy, with all of the history and the chaotic cities, can be overwhelming on your own. With a local guide it is colourful and brilliant.

Tell us something about Italy that only a guide would know.

My team of guides and I know millions of things that would surprise you. One fun thing that always gets my partner going is the food. He is from Naples. Did you know that fettuccini alfredo is not Italian?

 If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would it be?

I’ve been to many places but I would love to go to Thailand someday.

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