Rome tour guides deal with unusual questions

Part two in the series

One year on from our first article, we ask some more Rome tour guides about the strangest questions put to them by the city's tourists.

Tour guide Louise Egan from Ireland regularly gets complimented on her “excellent English” and is asked how long it takes her to commute to Italy each morning. Among the stranger questions she has had to field include “Did aliens build the Colosseum?” while also having to explain that, no, the Colosseum is not built of sand.

Egan has also been asked queries such as “When are we going to see Big Ben?” but perhaps the top prize should go to “You know on our Roman Forum tour? Would you mind leaving out all the history stuff?”

One day Jon Balog from Maryland in the US was giving a tour of the Vatican Museums' Gallery of the Tapestries. In the middle of explaining a tapestry which featured Julius Caesar being stabbed to death in 44 BC he was asked “So were Jesus and Caesar the same person?”

Another time, at the Capuchin Crypt on Via Veneto, Balog was pointing out the skulls and bones of 3,700 friars when he was asked the reason for the Capuchins' fate: “Was it for molesting?”

Scots-Italian tour guide Al Mariotti likes to tell the story of the unexpected rainstorm as he was leading a group near the Colosseum. A beggar, who had previously been limping laboriously, suddenly throws away his crutch, puts on a pair of trainers and runs full tilt towards the metro station, followed by deadly-serious shouts from Mariotti's group of “Oh my God, it's a miracle!”

Once at St Peter's, Dubliner Dara McCarthy was stunned when asked if Lucifer were buried in the Vatican.

Tour guides report regular confusion over the identity of Michelangelo. After explaining the Sistine Chapel for about 20 minutes, McCarthy was asked "Where is Michelangelo in the Bible?"

Irishman Jimmy Kennedy of Roman Empire Tours is always a font of tourist trivia. While starting a tour of the Sistine Chapel recently a tourist piped up, "I keep reading about Michelangelo. Didn't he paint something famous in the Vatican? Will we get to meet him?"

Kennedy also has to grapple with geographical enquiries such as "Are we in Rome? Because I thought we were in Italy."