In recent years the private tours options available to traveler has exploded. Fueled primarily by the success of Airbnb Experiences, the sheer number of tours and breadth of personalized options has broadened to an overwhelming degree. Nowhere is this more true than in sight-seeing-dense cities already overrun with more traditional guided tour items.
The good news, then, is an increase in quantity. The bad news is, of course, a proportional decrease in quality. Conducting an informal yet informative private tour in a busy cosmopolitan city is an art. One that takes a unique blend of factual knowledge, savvy presentation, and urban resourcefulness (it never does go quite as planned, and an ability to gracefully adapt to the unexpected is a priceless quality in any tour guide). With so many new tours out there it is becoming increasingly more difficult to separate a really good tour, the kind that makes you not only see but experience a city, from what is essentially someone walking you around and telling you what you’re looking at.
And so the obvious question becomes: How to choose?
Simple. Look for honest recommendations on those who have had very good experiences in the city you are going to.
And if you happen to be going to Rome, one very good option is to pick a tour from Localers.
On a warm July afternoon this traveler (who, full disclosure, does not typically like professional tours and is intensely suspicious of any form of guided experience) took a Localers tour of Rome’s increasingly popular Trastevere neighborhood. And a few pleasant hours later came away impressed. The tour covered a comfortable cross-section of both the neighborhood and its particularly Roman charms.
Warm cheese-filled supplì that leaves only a grease-stained paper. Fresh mozzarella so good that it deserves to be eaten entirely on its own. Prosciutto, coppa, olives and particularly addictive sun-dried tomatoes from the type of Roman grocery visitors almost inevitably walk past. And gelato, the taste of which explains the Italian love affair with gelato better than words ever could.
All of which was interspersed, in casual, conversational manner, with an historical overview of Trastevere’s particular corner of Rome’s multi-layered historical puzzle. It was not a lesson or a lecture. It was a conversation, held in both broad strokes (how and when this neighborhood began, and who began it), and the kind of details (why are there so many framed Virgin Marys on homes, right by lights?) that makes a visit a cultural experience rather than a checklist of Must Sees.
Either one of these experiences – the tastes of the neighborhood or its history – would have made for a fine tour. To have them both together in only a few hours is both rare and therefore difficult to find.
Localers currently operates in a handful of cities in both France (Paris, Lyon, Bordeaux) and Italy (Rome, Florence, Venice) and offers a range of tours in each.
It is one person’s opinion, but this seems to be about the right size, with room for perhaps a few more major European options. It is not brand new, there is a track record, but neither is it a sprawling impersonal enterprise.
Perhaps this is their secret. It is worth pointing out that nothing on this Localers tour was novel or surprising. There’s no gimmick. The model is to have locals introduce to the visitors to new places through a personal guided tour. This idea has been around since some of those crumbling stone arches in Trastevere. The difference with Localers, is that they happen to do this very basic thing, very, very well.
TEXT: Knoefel (@servizio_universo)
Localers City Tours
83 Boulevard Sebastopol
75002 Paris, France
Tel: +33 (0) 183649201 | (USA) Toll Free 1 888 460 3512