Being a tourist guide in a city with a history and cultural heritage as rich as Florence’s is a challenging job that requires countless hours of studying, determination and a great passion.
Being a history appasionata myself I sign up for guided tours every now and then to learn more about my adopted hometown. It was on a tour dedicated to the history of the guilds in Florence that I met Tatjana Gorina.
Tatjana is a licensed tourist guide for the city of Florence and its surrounding province, but she was born and raised in Lithuania and traveled around quite a bit before settling down in Florence. As a guide Tatjana has found the perfect profession to combine all her passions and make Florence her stage.
My work is first of all creative, challenging, fascinating. Being a tour guide means doing and thinking about a lot of things. You need to study and deepen your knowledge every single day, you need to keep the track on what’s on in the city, but most of all you need to have a great wish to donate yourself and your knowledge to your guests. Being a guide to me is about giving something to the others. ~ Tatjana Gorina
Where are you originally from?
I was born and raised in Lithuania, in Vilnius to be precise. My family is originally Russian so I grew up, let’s say, between several cultures and languages. Vilnius is a beautiful city, a crossroads where differences meet end melt together. It’s a city full of art, by the way. This is where my love for it comes from, I guess.
How did you end up in Florence?
This is a long story ☺ I have not always lived in Florence since I’ve moved to Italy in 2001. I first came to Siena with a scholarship to study the Italian language and culture. So I stayed and finished my University studies here. After the degree I left Italy to work abroad, traveling between Luxembourg, Austria and Great Britain. Then I came back and spent 2 years in Milan working for a big company as interpreter and translator. Then I moved to Rome for one year where I worked and studied theatre and performing arts. That is where I actually started to realize I needed to turn my passions such as love for art, languages and culture into profession. In 2011 I decided to go back to Tuscany and I simply chose Florence as my destination. I have always liked the city and I wanted to try to find my place in it.
Why and when did you decide to become a tourist guide?
The same year I moved to Florence. I found an announcement about a new course for future guides and decided to go for it.
I hear it’s not easy to become a licensed tour guide in Italy. Can you tell about the studies and exams you had to do?
Not easy at all. It takes approximately one year to prepare for the exam and I have to say that it was really challenging. I’ve got two BA degrees. Well… becoming a tour guide was more difficult than graduating two times from the university ☺ The course lasts 800 hours that include 100 hour of practice. The main subjects you study are art history, archeology, and history of Florence of course. And then you need to get to know all the museums with their collections, churches and monuments, the streets of the city and everything that there is to see and explore in the Province of Florence too.
What do you enjoy most about being a guide?
It’s a profession that requires you to study a lot all the time. I love studying. This is one thing. I love contact with people and the possibility to leave something to them, to make their stay more memorable and fascinating.
I told you I studied theatre performing arts. Well, being a guide is a very theatrical job. I like to say that Florence is my perfect stage ☺
What kind of different tours do you offer?
What I like best is to offer special, uncommon itineraries. For example those dedicated to important personalities, to some particular historical facts or events, or those regarding a particular area of the city. To give you an example: The Bridges of Florence for the “Bridge the Gap” event last year. Or a special tour dedicated to the history of the guilds and their role in economy and art through the centuries.
There is so much to learn and see in Florence, so there is a plenty of space to imagine and create. Of course I do offer more traditional itineraries too. When working with tourists and travelers from all over the world who visit Florence for the first time, I stick to more traditional itineraries and main museums like Accademia and Uffizi.
What can people expect when they go on a tour with you?
I always try to give the best I can to my guests. It is important for me to make them feel at ease and almost like at home in Florence.
Can you tell something about your clients? What kind of people do you usually work with?
I mainly work with small groups and private tours.
There are two main linguistic groups for me. The first and the bigger one are clients from the English speaking countries: Great Britain, United States, Canada, and Australia. The second group are Russian speaking guests who come from Russia and ex-USSR republics.
Next year I am planning to take the permission to work in German too. I’ve studied the language since I was a child, so I only need to refresh my memory and do some art history studies in German.
Have you ever had a funny/weird experience during one of your tours?
Once I took a small group of people to the Accademia museum. With them there was a little girl aged 5 or 6. The adults got tired after a while but the girl followed every single word. I was surprised to see the attention and surprise in her eyes. At the end of the tour she raised her hand and told me she had a question. What she asked was: “How is it possible that you know EVERYTHING? Where do they teach to know so much?”
It was one of the best compliments I have ever received. I still remember the curiosity and the joy this girl had to find out new things. It was a funny and beautiful experience indeed.
With a group of colleagues you founded the cultural association ArteMide. What does ArteMide do?
ArteMide is a cultural association, represented by 5 young and enthusiastic ladies: Ilaria, Giorgia, Lavinia, Dasha and myself. We are mainly focused on offering something to the locals and people who live in Florence. We offer special guided tours on weekends and these are always uncommon and curious itineraries one could never offer to a tourist on a short trip to Florence. We also organize events and workshops for adults and children.
I invite everyone to check out our webpage for details!
What makes Florence so special, in your opinion?
I shall not be very original: its history, the richness of its cultural and artistic heritage, the beauty you encounter on every corner, the landscape around it, the colors… It’s the combination of all these ingredients that makes this city so unique.
… It is a little bit sad to realize that almost everything we, guides, speak about to our guests regards the past and very few things to be proud of belong to the present…
It’s impossible to know everything about a city like Florence. Can you name something that you recently discovered?
You are right! Basically every single day one discovers new things. There is no end to that. I have just received one more fabulous book by Piero Bargellini “Medici. Storia di una grande famiglia”. I am again rediscovering the history of the Medicis from one of the best authors to study from!
As an insider, could you give a tip for a special place in Florence or its surroundings that lies off the beaten track but is a definitely worth seeing?
Well… there is more than one.
When I happen to take people to places near Florence I like to pass by the little medieval fortified town of Montefioralle. I suggest everyone to take a look at this place. It’s magic. By the way, the famous traveler Amerigo Vespucci was born there in 1454. When you are there look for the house wit the wasp sign over the door!