Why with a tourist guide in the age of the Apps?

panorama valter1

I dedicate this post to the people from all over the world I have met during my career as a tourist guide. I thank them for have chosen to spend part of their free time listening to me. It’s not just that I enjoy being listened to. What I like is sharing my passion for my territory, its artistic treasures and its traditions. These beauties are not important merely for their aesthetic value – which should be enough, in my opinion, since beauty heals our soul. Above all, they are important because they reveal our identity. And here comes the reason why I’m thankful to the foreigners I meet. When I talk to them, our different cultures mirror one another. In their eyes, I can sometimes read amazement for the beauties they see. Some other times I can read their puzzlement about certain aspects of our culture. This way I get to know my identity and my culture more deeply and I understand what are the things we as Italians, as Florentines, did well and what we can improve. I get to know myself more deeply and I hope this happens to the people I meet too. Differences have always enriched human beings.

This is why I don’t think Apps can replace a tourist guide in the flesh. Apps are  inexpensive, fun, practical, interactive… they give you a lot of interesting and accurate information, maybe even tips. However, they can’t give you the opportunity to come into contact with a different culture. Through the stories told by a guide, you can have first-hand emotions, first-hand passion, first-hand hopes, all of which are straight from the guts…

panorama valter

The pictures you find in this post were taken by my friend Walbrasky, with whom I share a deep passion for our territory

Do you want to come in contact with our culture? Do you prefer a tourist guide in the flesh to an App? Then you are welcome to explore my website… to get to know me better before calling me!

School trips and responsible tourism

425364_562935517083159_452460736_nfoto It-a-cà

This year It-a-cà, the Italian festival for responsible tourism based in Bologna, is at its fifth edition. I decided to take part in it to be contaminated by new ideas and to understand how responsible tourism is developing.

First I think we should explain what responsible tourism is. It was outlined in Cape Town in 2002 and goes beyond sustainable tourism. In fact, not only does contribute to the conservation of natural and cultural heritage, but also tries to create connections between tourists and local people and facilitates access for physically challenged people. This means that responsible tourism takes social and economic justice seriously into  consideration.

On Tuesday I participated in a focus group which aimed to create a “Charter for responsible school trips”. Two years ago, some teachers from Bologna who were cooperating with the  COSPE association, began to elaborate  a chart of good practices for  school trips inspired by the principles forwarded by AITR (Italian Association for responsible tourism). The charter is still in progress  and last Tuesday was an opportunity to get the discussion going between teachers, tour operators, social groups, institutions and the citizens. These are some of the main ideas:

  1. School trips should always be a form of responsible tourism as they should be based on mutual enrichment and  respect of  other communities  and cultures.
  2. Responsible tourism doesn’t imply any  destination in particular. Every destination is appropriate for this kind of tourism, because it is mainly a way of travelling. You can travel in a responsible way even in your own area, trying to gain a better insight of it.
  3. A responsible school trip should have a main theme to analyse, for example legality, or the environment. The theme sould be  coherent with the curricula.
  4. The students should take an active part in choosing the theme and  the activities.
  5. In the past, the school trip was seen as an opportunity for the students to see places they would otherwise never visit. Nowadays low cost flights have made travelling possible for a wider number of people, and schools should focus more on the experience  the school trip can offer.
  6. The students should be helped to understand that a school trip is not only a holiday where they can have fun with their classmates in their favourite destinations – i.e. big appealing cities, known worldwide for the entertainment opportunities they offer – but also an opportunity to enhance personal growth.
  7. To foster the choice of a responsible school trip, we could create a national portal to give information and proposals. The portal should be interactive and enable the students to post pictures and ideas about the experience they had. A contest for the best picture, short story, poem or any other form of artistic expression could also be organised. This could be carried out with the help of the institutions, associations and private sponsors.
  8. Once back home, we should stimulate the students to share their experience with the students from the other classes of their school. What they have learned could be transformed into acts of community activism.