Matt has worked as a Rick Steves tour guide for more than 23 years, leading our 21-day Best of Europe tour, Family Europe tours, and 14-day Best of Europe tour. When he's not guiding, he works as our Facility Manager in the office.
How have the tours changed since you first started guiding?
Europe has gotten more crowded with tourists in the last five years. European cities are now making rules not allowing groups in certain areas so the locals don't get upset. Being on a Rick Steves tour helps ease the crowd issues. Reserving times for entry to museums and historical sites; staying at small, family-run hotels; and eating at smaller restaurants help ease the crowded feeling and help give the group a more intimate environment.
What is your favorite part of the Best of Europe tour?
My favorite is enjoying the relaxation of the Cinque Terre. I love the beaches, the incredible seafood, the fantastic scenery and hikes, and of course the local wine. Italy can be very intense with its culture, art, and history. So by the time we get to the Cinque Terre, everyone is looking for a break. Everyone is exhilarated, but tired. It's nice to take a vacation from our vacation.
What makes a great group?
You can tell at the very first meeting. During the introductions, there are usually a lot of "oohs and ahhs" about the trip. There's a lot of laughter and conversation, which is nice to see, since most of my new groups are meeting each other for the first time. They ask intriguing questions, and I can tell they are excited. The people who take our tours have a real curiosity about art, history, and food. It's thrilling to get them geared up for the next three weeks of travel in Europe.
Is there any part of the Best of Europe tour that still gives you a "wow" feeling?
When I take our groups to Venice, and we make our way through the winding streets to the Piazza San Marco, I just love watching the tour members' expressions. They always have open mouths, and they're saying, "This is so beautiful, so incredible!" when seeing the square and basilica in front of them. Their expressions give me goose bumps.
You're a tour guide, so you're gone for a while each summer. How do you handle being away from your family?
My kids are older now (one in college, one in high school, one in middle school), but of course I miss my family while working in Europe. I have an amazing wife who knows my love of travel and encourages it, and this brings me peace while I am working on tour. She takes care of the kids and household and works a full-time job while I'm away.
Have you ever brought your family along on a Rick Steves tour?
Back in 2014, I took my family on a Rick Steves Family Europe tour. My youngest was 6, and I thought he might too young to go to Europe. But to our surprise, he was an amazing traveler. He walked from the Colosseum, through the Forum, to the Pantheon in Rome; hiked the long trails in the Berner Oberland in Switzerland; and ate escargot at our last dinner in Paris. All with no complaints. This past summer, I took my family on Rick's Adriatic tour, followed by a week in Umbria. We had the best time exploring Slovenia, Croatia, and Italy. My kids love to travel and want to try guiding when they can. My 16 year old has the gift of gab, and Rick thinks he would make a great guide.