Interview with Expat in Italy Business Owner Danielle Russo, of When in Rome Tours

Over the last year I’ve interviewed other expat in Italy business owners and shared their stories with you here on My Bella Vita.  I’ve loved every interview.

In fact, the expat-owned business series is one of my favorite reoccurring installments on this website because I get a chance to reach out and connect with other expats who are trying to make a difference in how vacationers experience our new country.

And this month’s interviewee did not disappoint.

I can’t really remember how I met Danielle Russo, owner of When in Rome Tours and Bed and Breakfast, but over the last few months we’ve exchanged a number of emails and she was, like the other women I’ve interviewed for this series, encouraging, supportive and energetic in her attitude about owning a business in Italy.

Here is our interview.

1. When in Rome Tours started in 2006 as a travel consulting business focusing on the Eternal City. Rome is obviously a great place to get into the tourism industry, but what helped you choose this career path?

When I first moved to Italy I juggled several jobs, teaching English, translation work, and walking tours. Nothing beats dedicating your days to helping people plan their tours, meals, and lodging in Rome and Italy. I don’t think I could go back to working a “9 to 5” job in a cubicle in Italy ever again!

2. How have your tours and services grown over the years?

The business has its peaks and valleys, yet slowly but surely, a little ten page tour consulting website has blossomed and grown into a fully licensed Italy Tour Operator with an e-commerce website . now has nearly three hundred pages of tour products, original articles about Rome & Italy, and funny things that seem to happen “only in Italy”.  The economic crisis has been a challenge, but in the end it just forces us to be more competitive in order to make tours affordable for everyone. For example given that the Vatican keeps raising its entry fees, we now have Vatican tours that costs only 10 Euro. Our philosophy has always been that it is better to earn a little than nothing at all.

3. So, fellow innkeeper, tell me-how is the new B&B working out for you?

No rest for the weary! The  When In Rome B&B is great in that unlike tours, it is an essential commodity. While not everyone can afford to take a tour while in Rome, everyone DOES have to sleep somewhere! It is a major commitment though, 8 rooms require round the clock attention, frequent upkeep & renovation, etc.

4. You offer guided Vatican Tours, Rome and Pompeii tours, day trips to Florence, private and group excursions, as well as car transfers and your B&B. Seriously. How do you keep up?

Good question.

Making it through each day requires 7/8 hour of sleep, a multitude of coffee beverages, a bicycle to get quickly from home to office to B&B without losing my will to live on the Rome buses, and healthy kids who A) sleep through the night and allow me to do the same, B) can stay at school/day care! Any variation of the above, and we’ve got problems.

5. If someone had only one day in Rome-horror, I know!-which one of your tours would you recommend they take?

Without a doubt the new semi private Rome in a Day Tour. Eight hours of hard core sightseeing, plus a typical Roman lunch and gelato at one of my favorite gelaterie. Oh, and last but not least, 3 coins in the Trevi fountain to ensure a (less frantic) return trip to Rome one day!


Thank you, Danielle and in bocca al lupo on all of your endeavors.

Next week I’m launching a new series about traveling in Italy, written exclusively by guest bloggers who are addicted to the bel paese and-whatdoyaknow?-Danielle Russo is up first. Be sure to come back next Wednesday for Danielle’s guest post and the first installment in the Experiencing Italy series on My Bella Vita.

*All photos by When in Rome Tours

Traveling to southern Italy? Click here to see how I can help you plan the trip of a lifetime.

5 Responses
  1. I must add that anyone… ANYONE… that is able to successfully operate a business in Italy, especially a foreigner deserves MAJOR kudos. Operating in Italy is 100 times more complicated than operating in the states. I say this wth the experience that our culinary tour company operates half in Italy and half in the US…. what a difference!

    So Danielle (and Cherrye): Congrats!

    Thanks, Michael! It was definitely a challenge getting our B&B up and running! I’m just hoping it “made us stronger,” ya know? he he
    .-= Michael / Culture Disocvery´s last blog ..Who is Alfredo Sauce, and why do Americans keep asking about him? =-.

  2. Danielle,
    kudos to you for running a tour business in Rome, I aspire to do the same in western Siciy -Marsala Trapani area- I am in the research and study phease of this, figuring out who to collaborate with, how to go about licensing etc..
    @ Michael – while its true that it’s harder to get a business going, I think that we americans have advantages over our Italian competitors due to our sometimes broader experiences, greater flexibility and the fact that our society is more mobile and we swtich jobs so we tend to have a more positive, solution oriented outlook on life.

    Interesting point and one I’ve thought of often. I tend to agree. Please let me know when you get your biz going. I’d love to work with you.

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