Tour Guide Trial
In the late 90’s, in a moment of pazzia (madness), I decided to try for the official authorization of Guida Regionale dell’Umbria.
Here in Italy, only authorized guides may offer tours. Sanctions are severe and unauthorized guide abusive (“illegal guides”) risk heavy sanctions.
Exams required for official licensing as a guide are notoriously fierce here in Umbria. I studied for a couple years before the exam – and very intensely the year before. At the time of registration for the exam, I had been given a 2-page, single-spaced, small-print “suggested bibliography” which I found so discouragingly overwhelming that I threw it out – and set up my own study program.
How to cover the geography, art history and history of Umbria since 2000 BC? How to possibly remember all the art treasures in every museum, civic palace and church in every major and minor Umbrian hilltown? We knew that questions could be asked about all the major (and “semi-major”) sites – logicamente! – that tourists visit: Assisi, Perugia, Gubbio, Orvieto, Todi, Spoleto, Spello, Bevagna, Montefalco and Deruta. But we also knew that we could be asked about the “lesser-knowns” and “rarely-visited”: Narni, Amelia, Panicale, CittÃ di Castello, Umbertide, Bettona, Foligno, Terni, Gualdo Tadino, Montone, Corciano, Castiglione del Lago, CittÃ della Pieve and Trevi (have you even heard of all of these?!)
For over a year, I read ONLY books, pamphlets, and brochures on Umbria, took copious notes and made outlines. I had a book with me at all times and read about Umbria whenever I had to wait in line somewhere.
The day of the written, nearly half of the applicants gave up as soon as the question was read. They walked out. The rest of us plunged in and wrote. I stayed nearly 5 hours (the maximum allowed). As soon as I turned in my paper, I called home and my son asked, “Mom, did you pass?!” My reply: ” I have no idea but it’s OVER – so please get my pile of New Yorkers ready”! I had been stockpiling for a year and couldn’t wait to get my hands on them… to read anything that was NOT about Umbria!
About 5 months after the written, the results came in : 35 of us had passed the written exam and been admitted to the oral exams. Time to start studying again. About 5 months later (or close to a year after the written), I had my oral exams before a commission of 4 professors. Each of the professors had an opportunity to randomly quiz me on any aspect of art and history in any Umbrian town. I was one of 18 who passed this final part of the licensing exam. I am the only American Guida Regionale dell’Umbria. Fortunately, the license is for life!