what makes our tours unforgettable
We are a network of over 30 carefully selected scholars, professors, researchers, authors, and licensed guides specializing in the study of art history, archeology, architecture, literature, and other subjects. Many of the scholars who lead our original tours hold MA, or Ph.D. degrees, and are known for their vibrant and enthusiastic presentations, bringing each location into historic and relevant detail with personality. Our guides provide accurate information, dispelling legends and myths recited by countless guides, and answering questions with a depth of knowledge that only comes from scholars with academic qualifications. We are able to customize private tours to meet the specific interests of our guests. Today we are recognized by travel writers, travel agents, and online travel sites for having some of the “Best Tour Guides in the World”.
what icon is not
Our intelligent tours are for travelers who desire an alternative to unenthusiastic, joke-telling, or misinformed guides in colored t-shirts, or with umbrellas for huge groups to follow. We are not a budget tour operator using students on summer break who memorize scripts, or part-time actors. We do not offer free tours to large groups which contribute to mass-tourism and the destruction of the heritage that we work to preserve. We do not accept drop-in guests without advance reservations, and we do not offer a cookie-cutter, one size fits all tours. This type of desensitized experience is contrary to our mission.
For us, each guest is a fellow traveler and not a tourist. We share a common philosophy about reinventing travel through intelligent tours that support the principles of Sustainable Travel International, Slow Food, and Slow Travel. We encourage our guests to become responsible stewards of heritage through authentic, experiential tours. Our shared sensibilities for a deeper appreciation of travel destinations emphasize that travelers are an integral part of preserving the culture of each place they visit. We believe in treating each guest with integrity and respect for the time and expense they have spent to join us.
excellent english language abilities
Each Icon scholar must possess excellent, or native English language abilities. Our private tours can be provided in a variety of other languages upon request, and language selections vary from city to city depending on the availability of scholars.
smaller is better
If you haven’t heard of us, it’s because our group tours are limited to small sizes, in some locations we have a maximum of 6 to 8 guests. As a result, our guides will never have to yell to be heard, or wear bright colored t-shirts with our logo to stand out in a crowd. We do not need to use audio amplification systems unless we have a larger private party, or in some cases when museums require groups to wear headsets. All of our guides have clear and resilient voices that are easy to hear, even in busy locations. During each tour, you will be treated like a friend. Our guides often learn about the interests of guests during the tour and can custom tailor each itinerary to inspire curiosity regardless of age or education level.
As a matter of fair practice, we have a very strict policy of not allowing our staff to accept commissions from restaurants and shops. We will never divert our guests into a souvenir shop, or cafe where they feel obligated to buy something. If you are curious about shopping, restaurants, or where to find purveyors of locally produced items, just ask your guide. We possess a passion for restaurants, shops, music, and artisanal items, and our guides will direct you to places we enjoy as locals.
We started offering tours of Italy in 2001, and by 2007 we had slowly begun expanding into other countries where travelers requested our intelligent tours. We are still growing today and developing new tours as we discover lively scholars and truly knowledgeable experts with engaging people-skills to lead tours, who understand the sensibilities of different travelers. All of our guides are passionate about the places they inhabit and possess a true desire to share the best archeology, art, food, wine, and culture with the guests who take the time to tour with us.
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