Our Story – What a Life Tours, official Rome tour agency since 2006
Opening a business in Italy is not for the faint of heart and the process can sometimes be fraught with bureaucratic red tape, delays and unexpected costs. But two expats—Joseph, a native of Athens and Swedish-born Tove—braved these challenges to introduce the idea of highly specialized, tailored tours of Rome for small, intimate groups. The couple has been in business since 2006 and their company, What a Life Tours, has been growing steadily for nearly ten years.
The couple’s idea for a tour agency in Rome was hatched as a result of their love for the city that brought them together. “We wanted to give something back to Rome, which has given us so much. We came from different countries…” Joseph was finishing his degree in International Relations at La Sapienza University when he spotted Tove in the middle of a piazza “…and we fell in love with each other and also with the monuments, the history, the food, and the people. It’s our aim to show people through our eyes all the things that the city offers you.”
Experience Rome as the Romans do…
And their business model stands out. The couple started small with a handful of mother-tongue licensed tour guides and promoters at major sites around Rome and the Vatican. They earned an excellent reputation by offering selective, special-access, high-quality tours for which they garnered a top spot on TripAdvisor. Rather than catering to large tour groups, “the kind,” says Joseph, “where the guide sprints ahead leading a mass of bodies through the ruins of an ancient site, never looking back, we prefer that our clients engage with the city and also with their tour guides in a more familial and friendly way.” Small groups of no more than eight to twelve provide travelers with intimate access to the city’s busiest and most high-profile monuments and sites often before the crowds arrive. What a Life tour guides are friendly and knowledgeable about art, history, and culture, but never give a history lesson. It’s the personal touch that matters most to Joseph and Tove. Their guides try to memorize visitors’ names, make recommendations beyond the scope of the tour about other attractions that may be of interest, and frequently remain in contact long after the tour and their visit to Rome has ended. “It’s less of a visit and more of an intimate experience,” Joseph adds.
With 1500 tours a year, the company’s founders have toyed with the idea of expanding and offering other destinations beyond the Eternal City, even New York, because of the high-level of service they provide. But for the moment, those plans are on hold, because as the couple says, “We believe it is better to do something small with quality than large, because there’s always a risk of losing that standard. We also like that we meet people from other countries, it’s exciting and there is still so much to offer our clients who want to experience Rome as the Romans do!”
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