Known as the ‘cultural capital’ of Europe and attracting over 10 million visitors a year, Florence has proven to be one of the highlights for all those travelling to Italy. One definitely needs a local tour to give you a special in-depth look at the Italian traditions, customs and the different ways of life.
The best way to experience Italy is through the eyes of a local. If you’ve been on tour to Italy with us, you might have met Tiziana Bacchioni. She is an established and professional tour guide in Italy and has led literally hundreds of Expat Explore groups in Florence for well over 5 years. Tiziana’s passion for the Italian architecture, culture and history is absolutely contagious and leaves you wanting more! Read on to find out what sparked her passion for history, what Italian food she loves to eat and what she learns about people and the world as Italian tour guide…
Q: Where were you born?
A: I was born in Desio, Milan in Northern Italy.
Q: Where in Italy do you work?
A: I work in Florence, the larger Tuscany region and Liguria, but Florence and Province is definitely my areas of specialty. I love the architecture and culture of Northern Italy!
Q: How many languages can you speak and do you lead tours in Italian too?
A: I speak English and French and Italian, of course! I lead tours in all three of these languages.
Q: To become licensed, guides must register with the local government and pass exams testing all facets of their knowledge about the area they wish to guide in. You know much more than what we can find in any guidebook! Where and when did you learn it all?
A: I always loved art, art history and craftworks since I was a child. I came to Florence in 1979 to study art history at the university, but I also studied graphic design, and I worked in that field for many years. Then I attended a specific course in Florence to become tour guide in 2007 – 2008, and I decided to become a licensed guide. In our profession, we have to keep studying… which is why I recently started studying at the university again! It’s fascinating to always discover something different and new – local traditions, habits, cuisine and curiosities. Since I found the tour guide world in 2008 and I’ve never looked back!
I like that people can explore the history and landmarks, since there are always many things to be discovered. But – I have to admit – I also love talking about Michelangelo!
Q: What sparked your passion and love for history and travel?
A: Who knows… I think it is something very personal, a spontaneous characteristic, but probably also thanks to my father and the education I received. He loved travelling, and also camping, which helped him connect to places and nature. He often recalled his experiences during the war, which probably gave me the sense of the history. I lost him when I was quite young, but I always remember the time and the experiences that I had with him. I believe that these experiences are the important things in life.
Q: How many tour groups do you lead in one week?
A: It depends on the season. I work with groups, and, less frequently, I also work with private clients. I could easily lead 10,11 or 15 groups in a week, but typically it often varies from one week to the other according to the kind of tour (walking tours, museums etc).
Q: How does a day in your life look?
A: Normally quite busy, I have to say. Because of the work, especially in some periods of the year, but also because I have plenty of interests. There is always something interesting that I would like to do or to see. Most of the time I am in contact with people, customers and colleagues, but I like to set aside a little time for myself every day; along the river, seated in a sunny square, in a library or a café or a small garden, enjoying a few private moments to recharge in some beautiful spots. Sometimes, I like to enjoy a drink or dinner with dear friends; more frequently, you will find me at home with my partner for a nice dinner at the end of the day.
Q: You know everything there is to know about architecture, history, renaissance history… what is the one thing you hope people remember and take away after the walking tour?
A: The main thing that I would probably like to communicate to people is the curiosity, passion, and respect for our common roots. Even if people belong to different countries and cultures, I think that sharing all the most amazing aspects of our countries and cities is a way to feel that we are part of something special and unique. We are the result of everything that has happened in the past, and we can make a better future, if we are able to observe, enjoy and share all of our experiences.
Q: What do you think is the most interesting part of the Italian history?
A: The fact that, for so many centuries, Italy was a country of a great influence. From the power of the Roman Empire to the genius of the medieval merchants up to the great creations of the Italian Renaissance. Italy is a Country that was full of academics, intellectuals in many fields – art, science, architecture, crafts, fashion, cuisine, not to forget the cars. What strikes me most is the level of creativity and inventiveness that runs through so many centuries of our history. It makes me so passionate about the Italian history.
I like the variety of people in these groups and how we can appreciate one city’s history and culture.
Q: What is your most favourite thing about Italy and what do you like most about being Italian?
A: Italy was my first love! It’s a small country but due to its extension from the Alps in the north to the lower Sicilian coastline, stretching to the north Africa, it has a great cultural variety. Italy a variety of landscapes, seasons, climate habits, architecture, people and even cooking! Our history runs so deep, and our people are so different from the north to the south. .. it gives a special character to every place and person. I also love the climate and gastronomic specialities.
Q: What is your favourite Italian food?
A: Ahh… it is hard to choose just one, as I like almost everything, but one of my favourite foods is certainly pasta! From the simplest ones (pasta aglio, olio e peperoncino) to something more elaborate (with seafood), my favourite is certainly pasta and probably spaghetti above all. It may seem very simple and traditional, but this is the beauty of Italian cooking.
Q: People always love the experience of having you as tour guide in Florence. What is your secret?
A: It makes me so happy to hear! Maybe the secret is that I love my job. I’m interested in people and love the Expat Explore groups! I like the variety of people in these groups and how we can appreciate one city’s history and culture, even though we come from all over the world. It’s also thanks to the great and passionate tour leaders at Expat Explore.
Q: What is your favourite bit of information to share with travellers?
A: Probably, one of my favourite topics is Florence as a city, with its lights, atmospheres, scenery, landscapes, and the sudden views while turning its corners, from some unusual perspectives. I like that people can explore the history and landmarks, since there are always many things to be discovered. But – I have to admit – I also love talking about Michelangelo!
Q: What area of Italy/Europe do you still want to explore more?
A: I like travelling, so I like to go everywhere; it is simply a matter of priorities. I love all the Mediterranean areas, but for that reason, I know them better. I have never been to Scandinavia, especially Norway and Sweden, so I would like to go there one day. But I am pretty sure that, to live, I prefer our warmer and sunnier lands.
Q: You meet people from literally all over the world! What is the most interesting thing you learn about people as you walk through the streets of Italy?
A: Yes, it’s brilliant to meet people from all over the world. I always try to guess which countries they come from. Since the world is becoming more and more international and people constantly move all over the world despite their original roots, it’s a great interest of mine – to look deeper and get to know people. I also think that, despite the growing globalisation of culture, it is important for people to always keep and remember their own individuality and to show it while respecting other cultures that are different to their own.
We are the result of everything that has happened in the past, and we can make a better future, if we are able to observe, enjoy and share all of our experiences.
The other aspect I always love is noticing their surprise and interest when they discover something new, and seeing their pleasure in enjoying new experiences. I really like seeing people enjoying our cities, especially in their free time here. When a tour is over, I like seeing them discovering and enjoying on their own.
Q: Top tips for people travelling to Italy for the first time?
A: Do not be limited to the most famous aspects of our cities and be curious! Look, taste, hear and search for the most genuine aspects of our culture. Also, stop, now and then, to better appreciate all the many little nuances of Italy.