Lisa — born in the US but living in Italy for the past 20+ years — has been leading tours for Rick Steves throughout her adopted country since 1999. She also writes about her life as an American living in Piedmont, Italy, on her blog. Let's get to know her!
Lisa, you have deep roots in America and in Italy. How did this come about?
In 1997 I had been managing a restaurant in the Seattle area and realized it wasn't what I wanted to do with my life. I decided to sell my car, put the money in the bank, and "temporarily" move to Italy to teach English to adults. At that time I did not speak Italian, and I did not have a job, but found one easily. I met my husband while teaching, and that was it. We were married in 2000 and are raising two sons. Filippo was born in 2001, and Emanuele in 2007. Living in Italy full-time has been an adventure (especially living next door to my mother-in-law…) and you'll need to come on tour with me to get more details!
What is your "origin story" as a Rick Steves tour guide?
After meeting my future husband, I decided to return to the states to think about whether I really, really wanted to marry an Italian! Just about the time I decided to fly back to Italy to take the plunge, through a shoestring cousin of mine, I met Steve Smith (co-author of Rick's France guidebooks and, at that time, head of Rick's Guide Services department). Steve and I started talking and suddenly the idea of being based in Italy as a guide for visiting Americans made a lot of sense. I've been working for Rick Steves since 1999 and I love it. Guiding is nothing I had ever imagined doing. But when it all came together, everyone who knows me said, "That's a perfect fit for you!"
What is it like being a mom in Italy?
Being a mom is always a challenge. Sometimes my children make me glow, and sometimes I want to tear my hair out (teenager)! One of the most challenging aspects has been navigating the Italian school system. The day care system for children between the ages of three and six is fantastic. Elementary and middle schools are similar to those in the US, but then our kids have to decide what route to take for high school. More academically-inclined students tend to go to liceo, scientifico, classico, linguistico, or artistico. There are also trade schools for engineering, agriculture, the hospitality industry, and the list goes on. While nothing is written in stone, deciding on a career, even vaguely, at the age of 13 is incomprehensible to me.
What are your favorite moments from your Italy tours?
There have been lots of "wows" over the years. The biggest tour moment was seeing Leonardo Da Vinci's Adoration of the Magi revealed after years of restoration. I cried like a baby when I saw it again. My other "wow" moments have to do with our groups. I really enjoy the type of travelers that Rick Steves seems to attract — interesting, open-minded, and fun to be around. I've loved the songs and poems written by tour members about their experiences, dancing lessons (I have two left feet), and getting soaked when the weather doesn't cooperate with our tour schedule but people take it in stride. Attitude is everything!
Here's what Lisa won't tell you…but her tour members will:
"Rick's choice of guides is impeccable, and Lisa was a dream! Knowledgeable, personable, caring, an absolute delight. Her background from Seattle and her life in Italy combined to give us a real understanding of Italian life and how it compares to life back home. Her relationship with restaurant owners and shop keepers along the way was touching. Not to mention having to 'herd a bunch of cats' around Italy. She's a definite asset to your organization!"
— Leslie in Beaverton, OR