Federica Pradella definitely didn’t anticipate what fate would have in store for her: ever since she was a child she thought she would be… digging! She graduated in ancient history and specialised in archaeology. Then, after a research dig in the Etruscan necropolis of Marzabotto – an unforgettable and unique experience for her – destiny dealt his hand. Work opportunities are lacking, but Federica wants to fly the nest, so she chooses to start a career as a tourist guide as a way to bring together her cultural interests and her natural social disposition.

She combined her studies with qualification exams and a special tourist guide permit to take up the profession.

Federica travelled between Italy, France, Spain and Greece for seven years. Always by coach, with her boyfriend or budding local tourist guides. Many a time she found herself having to look after her customers and satisfy their requests. Italians, she tells us, are especially demanding when it comes to food and comfort. And that means providing an espresso in the morning and arranging for the coach to park right in front of the museums’ entrances. Spanish tourists are more easy going, in Federica’s experience: ever happy to put up with any disruption with a smile.

This is a demanding occupation, which requires studying and constantly updating one’s knowledge, as well as a high dose of savoir faire and the ability to empathise exercise some psychology. Federica faces the task armed with a beautiful smile, which reflects her warm and earnest disposition.

She tells us that she has been concentrating on Mantua in the last few years. This is where her roots are, and this gives her more time and more chances to concentrate on studying and devising new itineraries. Her aim is to offer to her customers the classic itineraries mixed with the artistic and tourist attractions available at any given time. In this respect Federica is exceptional at picking up ideas and suggestions. Federica’s solid cultural background, which she feeds continuously and a network of refined acquaintances are part of the “secret” recipe which allowed her to be a very sought after tourist guide in many different Italian cities. Hers is not seasonal work – it’s a full time job in different places. She is at home in Palazzo Ducale. She is inspired by different itineraries and different tales to tell, according to the seasons. Sun and fog are full of suggestions and ever changing reflections on the frescoes and decorations, bringing to the mind different anecdotes.

Federica enjoys teamwork and a continuous collaborations with her Mantuan colleagues and for years she has been focussing not on attracting tourists – that is not her job – but on making sure they feel great in Mantua, by adding an enchanting narrative to its ever present charm. That is how to attract loyalty, by word of mouth: the most effective and most economical business card for a small but important city of art. Federica does her bit. Every day. With passion.

by Mara Pasetti

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