How I Became a Tour Guide | Tours by Locals North Beach San Francisco
Ever since I was a kid, I loved to paint and draw. In the year 2000, I packed my bags and art supplies, and flew from San Francisco bound for art school in Florence Italy. On landing at Amerigo Vespucci airport, I caught the bus to Santa Maria Novella Station in the heart of the city.
Mind you, I spoke no Italian, and I had no idea where I was except for Rick Steves guide book with various maps I had spent months scouring preceding my trip. (I always research and relive my trips for months of extended pleasure). However, nowhere in the guide books was mentioned the flock of young men who hover in the station to meet young women and offer service as ‘escorts’ during their foreign adventure. I have to admit to being exhausted as I had just finished college exams as well as a weekend of dancing in San Francisco’s Carnaval parade and, truth be told, I was asleep on my feet, so I allowed myself to be lured in by a young ‘chaperone’ who, after I sized him up, looked harmless enough.
I say this because, although I have lived in San Francisco most of my life, I am a ‘jersey girl’ at heart with street sense plus I teach cardio kick boxing and, after assessing the situation, I felt pretty safe. I will tell you here I refused the suggested ‘round about’ excursion to his apartment and so we proceeded directly to my dorm which was actually a lovely apt shared with five other wonderful women on Via della Vigna Vecchia conveniently located between Santa Croce Square, Piazza della Signoria and ‘Vivoli’ , the oldest gelato shop in Florence. My sweet tooth became instantly alive.
That evening, exhausted, I settled in for a long awaited slumber but, no sooner did I start to drift into dreamland than, I was startled into full awakening by the pants and groans of a passionate lovemaking session which resonated and doubly echoed off the stone walls of neighboring apartments literally arm’s reach away from my open window. Thus, my first day of love’s promise began in Florence Italy.
The very next day that promise was delightfully fulfilled as I fell completely in love with this City of art and amore. The beauty of every monument, piazza, museum, and garden held within its twisting cobblestone streets became my object of love and, as history oozed out every alley, I became so wholly mesmerized by its alluring grandeur that I seemed to lose my way at every turn. This was a strange feeling as I prided myself on a great sense of direction but here i was overwhelmed and humbled in an enchanting way.
That next day was also the start of classes which, i almost forgot, was the reason i was there in the first place. The teachers were very good and certainly there is no better place to learn the technique of Fresco painting than in the city where Michelangelo and DaVinci spun their magic but, I have to say, walking the streets with my sketch book and pencil in hand was my greatest teacher. These were weeks of never ending joy and exploration. My senses were constantly fed with the best of Italian cooking, art, fascinating people, places and things to do and see. But sadly, after many glorious weeks, it was time to return home and I clearly remember that, on the evening before my departure, I could not stop walking the streets as if by thoroughly taking in the sights and smells i could pack the city in my bag to take home to the USA . Alas i could not, but I will forever keep Florence in my heart, memory, and sketch pad drawings with hopes of returning one day.
I want to mention that alone worth the price of admission to School was the Art and History Walking Tour organized by the administration. It was at this event I truly discovered, uncovered and explored Florence at its root. All the tour books helped but the tour so enhanced my experience of Florence that I realized there is no replacement for the feeling of belonging that comes from interacting with a person who has passion, personal history, wonderful stories and deep connection with a place.. It was then I knew that this is what i was called to do on returning to San Francisco after all, I had been sharing history and directions for years, and besides, I love to walk, meet new people, tell stories, and lucky enough to have had amazing, fascinating and fun experiences to share.
Hope to eat and share stories with you in my neighborhood of North Beach (Little Italy) as well as Chinatown and Fisherman’s Wharf.
PS… a few years later i was excited to have Rick Steves join my evening tour of Chinatown/North Beach.
PPS… My Florentine roommates ’ Sorelle Firenze’ still keep in touch even though we live in Munchen Germany, Boston Mass, Vancouver Canada and San Francisco CA. ….One of the perks of travel is you meet new friends and make lasting friendships with fellow travelers from all over the globe.
About Blandina | North Beach San Francisco Best Walking Tour Guide
You have just found North Beach San Francisco’s BEST tour operator and walking guide! I am so excited to invite you on a fun, fascinating, and interactive adventure through my beloved home. North Beach is known, not only as a center of San Francisco’s historic & culturally rich Italian Community, but also as a mecca for poets, painters, musicians, master crafters, dreamers, and free spirits. It is my great pleasure to introduce you to local friends and neighbors who are also the proprietors of shops, restaurants, galleries, and working art studios where you will have the opportunity to enjoy our food tour including complimentary tastes and samples (cannoli, chocolate, deli, etc.), meet the artists, share stories and maybe make some art of your own.