The Italian Almanac

fontana di trevi

Italian News - January 25

Rome has declared war on illegal tour guides. The city's 1,200 authorized guides are fed up with the outlaws, who, according to city authorities and guide associations, take a sizable chunk out of the tourism industry, which is Rome's largest.

"It is a big problem," said Mario Maranelli, the president of Rome's tour guide association, who estimated that illegal guides cut into about 50 percent of the market. "They don't respect anything, the law, taxes, prices. They are a real stick in our wheels."

Authorized guides have to pass a grueling test on a broad swath of the Eternal City's eternally long list of cultural treasures, and they say unlicensed and uninformed guides are a blot on their erudite image.

Now members of a tour guide unit of the city's traffic police are using the relatively slow winter months to hone their skills in detecting illegal guides and distinguishing them from everyday tourists. They study instructive hand gestures, covert lecture techniques and even a little Japanese, for the days to come when the springtime crime sprees begin.