Eva Polino owns Once In Rome (tours) in Rome, Italy. We have built a relationship with her as we book clients with her company for guiding them in the Colosseum or Vatican. She was kind enough to sit down to talk with me about the impact that Covid 19 has had on her business, her family and her city.
Eva, once a guide for the Vatican and the Colosseum, transitioned into owning her own tour guide business when the long hours . Instead of leading the groups, she now has a team of trusted guides that work as a team for her. She and her husband, owner of Rome’s School of Pizza, work long days but have made a fruitful income doing what they love. Recently buying a home in Rome that is outside of the city, they were on track to move so they can raise their two young children in more of a countryside setting, complete with chickens to care for.
But they are currently on lockdown in Rome, unable to move into their home due to the complications lockdown has imposed. But as Eva said, “ We don’t complain. Many have it much worse than this.”
These days, Eva wakes up early with her baby young son and goes to bed tired from a different kind of long day.
We talked about the impact that the virus has had on their family financially. As a tour operator, Eva buys entrance tickets ahead of time for client’s bookings of the Colosseum and the Vatican. Once In Rome had a full season with hundreds, if not thousands of bookings a month as busy season was approaching. As cancellations have been pouring in, Eva has had the reality of now having all of these useless tickets. This personal financial loss has been unexpected, as they were all paid for by Eva ahead of time for people that now cannot come. The economic pain is felt and yet she is smiling and thankful that her family is healthy and safe.
This crisis is causing Eva & her husband to reevaluate their future in the tourism business. They are inspired, as many of us are, to learn something of value from this experience and maybe how to work a little differently once the crisis has subsided. They absolutely love their jobs but they have loved spending more time together enjoying their family and they would miss what they’ve learned going back to working long hours in the city. Eva has been inspired to create a new way of doing what she loves. Rome has more than the Colosseum and the Vatican and she’s got some thoughts on how to connect Rome to future travelers that would be more unexpected.
But for now, Eva sits and waits as most of us are doing these days.
Tell us about yourself (who you are, your family, your profession)
My name is Eva Polino, I am an art historian, a tour guide and Co-owner of Once in Rome, a small local boutique company that organizes tours in Rome.
What does a typical day look like for you and yours under usual and normal circumstances?
My life is divided between low (November-March) and high (April-October) season. In the low season we relax, spend time without family and friends, plan on the high season, study new itinerary, meet guides, take part to seminaries, guided visits and lessons about Rome and classes to improve our guiding skills.
In the high season we work work work! Our time is spent morning to evening and sometimes nights arranging groups, guides, tickets, itineraries, solving issues, assisting clients which are lost, late or any issue they may have. Unfortunately little to no time is left for family and friends, we normally just crash on the bed :-). I am blessed and lucky that my parents are very active, affectionate and loving grandparents which turn into almost parents when we are busy at work.
Tell us what your typical day is like now?
Being a guide I am used to spending lots of time outside walking. Have been segregated home now for a while and the walking around the city I love is what I am missing the most.
I wake up, my partner cooks for all of us, he goes shopping for groceries while I am 24/7 attached to the baby who is 6 months old and apparently very scared I will abandon him so he MUST have me at sight all the time. I and my partner get to spend a lot of time with the older son which is 4 and have to admit I know him much better now which makes me question how I have behaved in the past, when I was always too busy and to absorbed to be with him feeling guilty because I was not working and then guilty that I had not spent time with him and promising myself I would be a better mom on the next day…
We do homework and exercise on YouTube, we joke and tickle, he likes being with his younger brother is sweet and mature. Unfortunately I have not been able to screen him from this virus pandemic and he is suffering nightmares. I am happy I can be with him and make him feel safe. Have not spent lots of time on the phone, I barely check my email and have to admit I was somewhat dependent on social. I love my terrain life, my family atmosphere, my time with my sons and partner. I am treasuring every minute!
How are you staying connected with people in your life (extended family/friends) during this?
To be fair I am not on the phone much so I speak with my mother who wants to see her grandchildren every day and chat every now and then with close friends, not trying desperately to talk to someone at all times so I am really only calling people who I really care for. I think I have matured the feeling that I should spend my time with people I want to be with rather than people I think I should be with. Have grown more selfish.
How are you dealing with your fears and concerns?
I am procrastinating! Ha!
Cannot think about something which I do not know how it will evolve. I have some projects, ideas for a more sustainable tourism and I am actually trying to find a way to address the issue and alternative ways to travel and actually experience the places we visit.
Is there anything personally or in your home that this brought to your attention that is positive?
Yes I love my homely dimension, although I am terrible at cleaning (ha!) I love the people I am being segregated with. 🙂
How would you encourage a family in the U.S who is adjusting to isolation?
I think we all go through stages, at the beginning I was destabilized, worried, was sad and desperate every time I received a cancellation then I realized that…it is not that important, I am here, you have probably the unique opportunity to look around you and see at a distance the life you were leading. Is it sustainable for you? Is this what you want? What do you want? What do you like? Have all day and all night to do what you want: read, cultivate your hobbies, be with your family, build a project, plan a change.
I keep in mind something that a friend told me once and I will never forget: money comes and goes, cannot control it, not always at least, don’t get sick or sad over it, not worth it. And really, there are so many things that are much more important and really noticing how many things I have that I do not need and that actually do not make me any happier.
Do you have someone in your family or community that you are personally concerned for their health?
My mother is immunocompromised so I am concerned for her and really hope she will get through. She is very worried about it so is not exposing herself to any risks.