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Rome Reports

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Masters' Gallery Rome: some of Rome's 3,000 licensed tour guides launch online portal


When COVID-19 hit Italy at the beginning of March, the tourist industry took an unfortunate dive; along with it, tour guides.

Liz Lev, an expert in art history, is one of them.

ELIZABETH LEV
Art Historian
“There are 3,000 licensed guides in the city of Rome alone. Of course, tourism makes up about 13 percent of the GDP of Italy. So here we are a whole bunch of people who have been trained for this kind of work sent home to sit on our hands. So if we are feeling a great loss of the art and the beauty of seeing Italy, I imagine - we imagined - that the people at home are also feeling the same thing.”

That's why Elizabeth Lev, along with many other tour guides in the Eternal City, are giving the gift of art through online courses, Masters' Gallery Rome. 

ELIZABETH LEV
Art Historian
“The idea was let's see if we can get a project, so that we can at least use this energy, this brainpower, this love, the positive thoughts we have toward something constructive.”

The plan worked. Now courses are being offered on the online portal, highlighting Caravaggio's pieces, Rome's ancient port from the Roman Empire, Ostia Antica, and artist Raphael, 500 years after his death.

Beside these, there are also themes a bit more “off the beaten track.”

ELIZABETH LEV
Art Historian
“I'm working on Raphael before I start on my pet project, one of my favorite subjects in Rome, which nobody really wants to do a tour of this. For me, there's nothing more fascinating than the history of women artists in the Eternal City. So my favorite is I'm looking forward to publishing 'Ladies of Easel Virtue,' where we can talk about professional female painters living in Rome.”

While museums in Italy are set to reopen on May 18, Lev says it won't make too much of a difference for her. Audio guides are currently being discussed as a way to make museum visits “safer.” 

ELIZABETH LEV
Art Historian
“Even when the museum's open that we need the frontiers to open. The cultural minister of Italy says he's counting on Italian tourism, which is not what the bulk of the guides, Italian guides, do. Most of them do international tourism. The guide business, visiting business is something that's going to take us a long time, perhaps the slowest of all, to recover from this.

In meantime, as international travel is still forbidden, Masters' Gallery Rome is the perfect way to learn about the heart and rich history making up the Italian city. This way, when travel is permitted, the art and beauty of the country will mean so much more. 

Melissa Butz