Italian Tourist Guides Protesting to Save Their Profession Against a New European Law That Humiliates Them
I’m a qualified tourist guide of Florence since 2008. Tuscany has more than 3.000 guides, Italy has more than 22.000. We work with passion, we are all experts of our territories, we got the qualification passing a very hard exam, studying a lot. We constantly study to give the best quality to our clients. We invest money in our websites and in our education, to keep always up to date about exhibitions, recent discoveries or new museums. We pay taxes in our country, very high taxes, believe me.
And then, one day, the Italian government (the same government that issued our tourist guide’s titles, promoting very expensive courses to get them) said that you don’t need any specific background to be a guide in Italy: every guide of Europe, never mind if they are from Croatia, Slovenia, Portugal, Germany or Estonia, can give tours in Italy. We are in the European Community, every worker has the right to work everywhere. We said: ok! We have taken an exam, let’s examine the European colleagues too! The answer is NO, they don’t need to take any exam, European Community trusts them.
Being an Italian citizen, would you like to de defended in a trial by a Bulgarian lawyer? I don’t think so, because Bulgaria has different laws than Italy. How can a tour guide of Slovenia, who has got the title of tourist guide with a course of 40 hours, explain the immense Italian heritage? In Tuscany the exam for being a guide is 800 hours long.
Moreover, the Italian government is asking the Italian guides to take another exam to show their expertise for those “specific” sites (top museums and sites, such as Uffizi, Accademia, Doge Palace, Pompei, etc) where the European guides won’t go (the Italian government has created a list of “specific sites” reserved to the specialised tourist guides, that is us). WHY? I’m now supposed to pass another exam to work in the Uffizi Gallery, the Accademia, the Medici chapels, the Bargello, where I’ve been working in the last 8 years almost daily? It doesn’t make sense, at all.
We are protesting with demonstrations and flash mobs. The Italian Minister of Art and Culture Franceschini has recently met a delegation of our tourist guides associations, and he said that we could go working to Slovenia, because of the principle of reciprocity valid in the whole European Community. I don’t want to go working elsewhere. Who do you think will have the most benefits from this situation? Italy? Not at all. I work in Italy and I pay my taxes in Italy, a guide from Germany working in Italy will pay his taxes in Germany, leaving here just poverty. Let’s say the truth: Italian tourism has been undersold to the big European tour operators, which will be the only ones to take advantage of this situation. They will send to Italy their groups with underpaid tour managers from Eastern Europe, saving millions of euros, giving the sack to hundreds of well-educated Italian guides. It’s happening in Italy and France, it happened in Greece and Portugal. That’s the power of lobbies, this is another result of the economic recession.
I’m sure that the quality will always prevail, that’s why I will keep on investing on myself, studying hard, improving my knowledge and doing as much as I can to be an excellent tourist guide of Florence, representing my city and my country with dignity and passion.