A cooking vacation with The International Kitchen means fun not only in the kitchen, but also exploring the local way of life during gastronomic and cultural excursions. Next in our popular series about these unsung heroes is Sicily’s Paolo, one of our most beloved guides.
1. When did you become a tour guide? Why did you decide to work in the tourism industry?
To make a long story short, somebody else decided for me: my cousin Rose! She is older than me and started working as a tour guide in the beginning of the 90’s. I was a high-school kid when I started to go with her on a tour bus since I have always been interested in history of art, architecture and archeology. I remember in those days as a student I had an essay on classical architecture and those day trips with her helped me a lot. One day she was desperate because she couldn’t run a tour and none of her colleagues was available to run it. Guess who did it? Yes M’am, Paolo! That’s how it all started.
2. How did you learn about the history and sites of Sicily?
I learned about the history of Sicily during my classical studies and read several books about Sicilian history that implemented my knowledge.
3. How do you get people interested in the places they see and visit?
Frankly I don’t know how to answer this question. I think what makes the trip is Sicily: a distillation of 3 thousand years of history. It’s not Paolo, believe me. I always try to explain how an historical fact affected local people’s lives and the attitude they developed as a consequence of it. Maybe what people appreciate is my relaxed style and my great sense of humor and that I manage the tour with such a “light touch.” In other words I try not to be too academic considering that most travelers don’t have enough cultural background knowledge about Sicily.
4. Where is your favorite place to bring guests, and why?
I don’t have a favorite place to bring guests but if I were to choose one I would take them to a farm to see how the real authentic ricotta cheese is made from start to finish. Why? Because it reminds me of my childhood and all the good memories and beautiful days spent with my grandfather who was a farmer. I love the countryside, I love food, some people eat to live I live to eat. There’s no better place than a farm to eat some genuine and authentic food and get a wise advise from an old man who is used to working with nature.
6. Anything else you’d like to say about your background and your trip?
One thing I want to say is that I have a sincere passion for Sicily, I am obsessed about healthy food, olive oil and wine! I speak impeccable English, I am also very efficient, even-tempered, always smiling, know so much about my country. Like I said I give all the credit to Sicily but when travelers stop referring to you as a guide and start likening you to a “best friend” you know you are doing a great job. Well, that happens to me very often.
By Peg Kern
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