Belles on Location

The Tour Guide in Pompeii who Changed My Mind about Tour Guides

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At the gates of Pompeii my views on tour guides were changed forever…

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I’m not sure where, but somewhere along the course of my life I’d acquired the notion that tours and guides were second-best when it came to ideal travel situations. The “true” traveler, I thought, forged their own path, not confining themselves to the schedules and demands of others.

What a goose I was.

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Thankfully my narrow-minded views were not to last, thanks to the vivacity of a delightful elderly Italian man named Silvio.

My friend Amy presented him as a gift to our merry band of five girls and it only took a few seconds before we all wanted to adopt him as our honorary grandfather.

Silvio adores Pompeii.

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Although he has traversed those ancient cobbled streets hundreds, if not thousands of times in his life, his eyes still sparkle when he claps eyes on it. Armed with cane, water bottle and jaunty baseball cap, Silvio led us on a fascinating tour of this massive piece of Italian history.

As we stepped carefully along deep chariot wheel tracks etched into the stone streets, we learned how the inhabitants of Pompei ate, cooked, loved, and suffered. We saw their gorgeous murals, grinned at the clever “fast food joints” and chuckled when Silvio explained that men were only allowed to enter the red light district if their foot exceeded the length of a prominent “manly part” carved into stone at the entrance.

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Measurer of the "manly parts," aka feet. Only men with a certain sized foot or larger were allowed to enter the red light district of Pompeii

Although I loved learning about the historical site’s wonderful and tragic history, it was Silvio’s love for his family that I remember most. He is married with two married daughters. They all live and work together and you’d be hard pressed to find a happier man on the planet. He truly believes there is no higher calling for a man than to adore and care for the women in his life. Yes, he is a treasure.

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With Silvio showing us the way, Pompeii's vast history became more alive than it would have had we been by ourselves.

All too soon our 3-hour tour of Pompeii was over. Silvio didn’t just drop us at the gate though. Nope. He personally drove a few of us to his bank so we could get more cash, then brought us all to his friends pizza restaurant and visited with us while we happily tucked into wood-fired pizza margherita and ice-cold Coca-Cola.

Finally it was time to part and we bid farewell with hugs, waves, and promises to return.

While I still love the freedom and flexibility of unguided travel, thanks to Silvio I now gladly make room in my itinerary for the experience and knowledge of a seasoned guide.

Editor’s Note: If you would like to read about Krista’s Pompeii trip, you may want to see: The Italian Beach Krista Dreams of  and  Girls’ Trip to a Fairytale Villa in Southern Italy. We always appreciate her unique way of seeing things.

*All photos by Krista Bjorn, used with permission


About the author

I am a wood-burning artist, goat farmer, writer and photographer of all things food, travel, and lifestyle. Born in Canada, raised in the USA, and shaped by my European roots, I now live on a goat farm in Queensland, Australia with my husband, where I celebrate anything that leads to healing, thriving, and loving. For more visit: Rambling Tart

This article has 7 comments

  1. Sara

    Great story! I love it! As a former tour guide in Florence Italy I love to hear that you enjoyed the tour! It really does make the most of a trip. As travel savvy as one may be or no matter how great your guide book is, you can’t beat the knowledge and passion found in a local. Some tour guides have lived their entire lives in these amazing places and know details a guide book or wikipedia or ever Rick Steves (no dis on RIck, I think he’s great) can’t possible know! Others have re-located to live in these amazing places because they have an overwhelming passion for the history and culture and have spent year studying it. And besides how else are you going to find those great little hole in the restaurants with amazing local cuisine than through someone who knows the place like the back of their hand. I agree, if you want to make the most of your trip, anywhere, use a tour guide. Happy travels!

  2. Krista

    Thank you so much, Sara! 🙂 I couldn’t agree more. You guys have such a wealth of knowledge and are so rich in stories you make every exploration so much more delightful. 🙂

  3. NLM

    I agree. I used to avoid tour guides, too, but once I had a few good ones, I vowed to find a good guide whenever I go somewhere new. Without a guide at the Vatican would have totally missed so many amazing things. You can always come back and do a slower and more selective visit on your own.

    I am a museum docent, and know for sure that the folks who take the FREE tours get much more out of their visits.

    Keep having fun.

  4. Krista

    Thank you so much for sharing, Nancy. 🙂 One of my dear friends is a museum docent and i learned so much from her that I never would have known otherwise. So glad there are folks like you who make history come alive. 🙂

  5. Jessica

    Awe! Sounds absolutely lovely! I will have to look him up when I visit Pompeii…

  6. fabio.

    Great comment!

    I’m so glad to read experiences like this!

    I’m a tour guide and I give tours just in Pompeii and all the Campania region so I can perfecly understan how this visitor felt!

    So if you are intersted to some tours please contact me. Email me to and may be read my article read last year :

  7. Naples to Positano

    Thank you for sharing superb information. Your site is very cool.

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