Postcards from Italy

Meet Our Guides: An Inside Look at Florence with Elvira

Of everything we miss about not traveling to Italy at the moment (the food! the wine! the food!), perhaps it’s the people that weigh heaviest in our thoughts. Over the decades, we have made dear friends, bonded with our clutch of neighbors, and are on a first-name basis with our favorite shopkeepers and restauranteurs. Though our families are in the US, we have a second family in Italy that we can’t wait to see again.

Among those we miss checking in on is our select group of professional guides, whom we have carefully cultivated over time and to whom we entrust our clients to make anything from the Colosseum to the peaks of the Dolomites come to life. One of the joys of our jaunts through the country is reconnecting with these guides and catching up on what is new and fascinating in each one’s area of expertise.

To give you an idea of how special our guides are, we’ve decided to begin a short series of posts highlighting the best of the best! Due to the restrictions in international travel, tour guides in Italy have very little work this year…we are making a bit of limoncello out of lemons by taking advantage of this rare moment of free time for a short interview with our favorite guides.


(Photo by CIU Travel via Flickr)

We are starting off with Elvira, our go-to Florence guide who has shown dozens of our clients the highlights and hidden gems of this Renaissance city. Stay tuned for more guide interviews to come!

Tell us about yourself! Where are you from, what did you study, and how long have you been a tour guide?
I was born in the town of Fontanellato near Parma, and I fell in love with art thanks to the fairytale castle located in the center of my hometown. Among its many treasures, the castle hosts a lovely fresco by Parmigianino.

Castle of Fontanellato, Provincia di Parma

Castle of Fontanellato (Photo by CIU Travel via Flickr)

During high school, I worked as a guide in the Castle of Fontanellato. It was here that I decided to turn my passion into a profession! I moved to Florence to study art history and worked as a guide with the Education Department of the Uffizi and the other National Museums or Florence, as well as with the Cultural Association “Citta’ Nascosta”, while still a student.

In 1998, I obtained my license as an official Florence Tour Guide for Florence in English and French, and have been working as a tour guide for over 20 years.

What is the one thing all visitors in Florence should see in your opinion?
I love sharing the art in Florence…walking around to take in the beautiful frescoes in the churches, the small courtyards, and the street corners.

I love seeing people’s eyes light up when they see the Ponte Vecchio or the David (the real one at the museum, of course) for the first time! These are the two things first-time visitors must see in Florence, though between the two, the David always wins!!!

What is your favorite secret treasure that you love to share with visitors?
I always say that Florence is too small to have secret corners, but I know this is not true! I like to walk to the top of the Monteoliveto hill to the Olivetana Church San Bartolomeo, where Leonardo Da Vinci’s famous “Annunciation” (1472) once hung. Though the painting is now housed in the Uffizi Gallery, the church is beautiful in itself and has masterpieces by other Renaissance artists.

Complete this sentence: If you really want to experience the spirit of Florence, you should…….

feast of san giovanni florence

(Photo by CIU Travel via Flickr)

…see the historical procession that passes through the city of Florence each year on the feast day of St. John the Baptist, patron saint of the city. The procession is followed by the final match of Calcio Storico Fiorentino and finally fireworks over the Arno River.

Dinner and Fireworks in Florence

(Photo by Giorgio Magini for CIU Travel via Flickr)

N.B. – in 2017 Elvira assisted us with this WOW Moment featured on

Name a sight or activity that visitors should avoid in Florence.
The carousel in Piazza della Repubblica! There are so many treasures of art and architecture in Florence, but many who give the Orsanmichele church barely a glance stop in their tracks and exclaim, “Wow!” at an ordinary carousel just around the corner.

What is your favorite Florentine dish, and is there a specific place visitors should try it?
Florentine cuisine is very heavy on the offal (tripe sandwiches are a popular street food here) and one classic dish that really embodies Florence are crostini di milza dell’Artusi made with a spleen paté. The best spots around the city to sample this flavorful dish are Trattoria La Vecchia Bettola in Piazza Tasso and Trattoria La Casalinga along Via dei Michelozzi in Piazza Santo Spirito.

Share your favorite memory from a tour you have given.
I often lead the Renaioli boat tour along the Arno. This tour is always amazing, but one day we had a family with two young boys between 10 and 13 years old. At one point they sat on the bow and started singing the song “Marry me” by Jason Derulo. It was so pretty!!!!!!!

On the Arno

(Photo by CIU Travel via Flickr)

Can you recommend a book or film for those planning of visiting Florence?
No doubt: “A Room with a View”..maybe first the book and then the movie…or first the movie and then the book …hmmm…

What changes do you foresee in Florence’s tourism due to Covid-19?
For the next year to 18 months, we’ll see fewer people in Florence and many little shops or historic artisans/craftsmen will disappear. But I think that the love for traveling will soon be as strong as ever, as soon as we find a vaccine or effective medical treatment so people feel safe.


(Photo by CIU Travel via Flickr)

Travel Specialists

Maria Landers

Brian Dore