This is the first in a new series devoted to the men and women who lead our travelers around the world. Our first Featured Tour Director is David Macchi, who’s seen a lot in 15 years as a licensed tour guide.
David Macchi has led nearly 200 tours of his native Italy since becoming a licensed tour guide in 1995. “Every tour is a chance to get better,” he said during a recent visit to Go Ahead’s Boston offices. “What drives me is a chance to share knowledge, emotion and passion with travelers. You can read and study about places and sights all you want, but what good is it if you don’t share it with someone?”
His favorite memories from tour center around sharing unique experiences with curious travelers. “On A Walking Tour of Tuscany, one traveler mentioned that a relative of his was buried at the American cemetery near Florence. One of our walks took us near the cemetery, so I detoured us near the gates and helped the traveler find his relative’s headstone. It was an easy way to show the group a side of Italy they might have missed, and it helped one man really make a connection with the past.”
A different tour found David in Rome with the son of a famous archaeologist. The traveler’s father had devoted his life to understanding the ways of the ancient Romans, and he asked David how he could immerse himself in the world of the Caesars. “I brought them to a couple of churches they said they’d found interesting, but then I told them to go off on their own, to Ostia.” Ostia was the city of Rome’s primary port during its heyday. “So they went to Ostia, said they had a nice time, and I didn’t think about it again. About a month later, I received a package. It was a shard of pottery from the man who had been to Ostia, along with a note explaining that this pottery was excavated from the ruins of Pompeii by his father.” And on a recent tour, David was lucky enough to watch two single travelers make a connection—a connection that eventually led to a proposal atop the Leaning Tower of Pisa and a happy marriage!
But travel wasn’t David’s first passion; that honor belongs to music, specifically opera. “I never liked opera until I was 25. Until then, I sang in a progressive metal band. One day, we were on tour in the United Kingdom when two of my bandmates got in a fight and that was the end of that. A couple years later, I took my first lessons and found that I really enjoyed opera.” David brought his powerful baritone to professional productions of The Barber of Seville, Rigoletto, Madame Butterfly and more, but when he met the love of his life and started a family, he realized that the globe-hopping lifestyle of an opera star wasn’t for him. To see David in action, click here.
These days, David’s passion is all things Italian. No matter how many tours he leads, he’s consistently entertained by first-time travelers’ reactions to authentic Italian cuisine. “Americans tend to be surprised by the food,” he said. “They arrive thinking, ‘What’s a more Italian dish than spaghetti with meatballs?’ Well, I was born here, and I’ve never had spaghetti with meatballs in my life. During my first time eating in an American Italian restaurant on Long Island, our waiter brought over a bread basket, poured some olive oil on a plate, and started grating cheese on top of it. Most Americans think that’s how Italians eat, but I can promise you it’s not.” He attributes the misconception to the global Italian diaspora. “Time moved on for those of us who stayed in Italy, but emigrants needed traditions to hold onto in their new homes, and more often than not they clung to old-country recipes. In some ways, the Italian communities in the New World are more Italian than those in Italy!”
Italians still take their food seriously—”Sofia Loren wrote a cookbook in which she said she used onions in her amatriciana sauce, which touched off weeks of passionate debate about what constitutes an authentic amatriciana,” David recalled—but for anyone looking for their first truly Italian flavors, David recommends carbonara in Rome. “Real Italians use just a touch of milk, no cream, and guanciale instead of bacon like you’d find here,” he says. The result is a lighter sauce than the thick, creamy, alfredo-like concoctions we’re used to. When in Rome, eat as the Romans eat—you just might find a new favorite dish.