Tour guiding is not a job for the meek or half-hearted. To excel requires an immense amount of knowledge, top-notch communication skills, and a real passion for one's work and the subject at hand. Hundreds of happy tour alums would agree that Madrid-based guide Federico fits that bill. When he's not leading Rick Steves tours, Federico offers tours in and around Madrid as well as virtual tours of Madrid's museums and virtual lessons on Spanish history. (Learn more about these opportunities, and find others on our Guides' Marketplace.)
In addition to leading several different Rick Steves tours around Spain, you are also listed in Rick's guidebooks as a local guide for hire. How does one kind of guiding differ from the other?
Leading a Rick Steves tour group requires that I know "enough about much." Working as a local guide requires that I know "much about enough."
Is there a secret to what makes an exceptional tour guide?
Any professional guide must be excellent in three ways: technically, culturally, and humanly. And if a guide has motivation, the traveler gets satisfaction.
Has tour guiding been in your blood for a long time?
Yes, ever since high school I knew I wanted to be a guide. So it's always been my vocation, never a hobby.
As a guide, you travel a lot, but you also bring other travelers to your home town. Do you have a preference?
On the one hand I will never stop traveling. Working as a Rick Steves tour guide leading Barcelona & Madrid tours and Basque Country tours, I just love to travel with new friends and share experiences all over Spain. On another hand, it is really satisfying to become a local expert and show the cultural legacy of my city to Americans and Canadians. I love Madrid — and I love to show you that.
We hear that you can sing opera like a professional. Tell us about that. Did you once have a career singing?
Never! It is just a natural talent. Since I was a kid I've always had a very good ear for languages and music. Later, I realized that I also had a good tenor voice. Guiding is my profession, but music is my passion. Classical music is simply the greatest art work ever done by mankind. It is a very, very important part of my life. I even think it can make someone a better person!