The Tolomazi, the first tour guides of VeniceHistorical Curiosities
The Tolomazi, the first tour guides of Venice
In the Middle Ages, as in present day, Venice was a cosmopolitan city bustling with travellers from all over the Mediterranean. Many of them were merchants, who went to the renowned Rialto market in search of rare and exotic goods, but the majority were mere pilgrims heading for the Holy Land.
Pilgrimages to the Holy Land started to take root in Europe in the early Middle Ages and became more popular and widespread at the time of the Crusades ... Between the 14th and 15th centuries, after crushing competition from the other maritime republics, Venice became the almost unavoidable point of passage for all those who wanted to pray in the places where Christ had lived and had been crucified.
Venice acquired the monopoly of these travels thanks to the frequency and the regularity of the maritime traffic, besides the presence of an enormous quantity of relics, gathered in every corner of the Mediterranean Sea, in the city churches.
Waiting to embark for the Holy Land, the permanence of these travellers in Venice, which could last up to a few weeks, was managed by the Tolomazi, a corporation of tourist helpers with restricted access whose activity was supervised by the Cattaver office (which had functions of financial control and eradication of smuggling ). Thanks to their caring, at times excessive, assistance, the pilgrim was helped, or rather guided, to find accommodation, change currency, visit the city and its shops and choose the ship on which to travel to Jerusalem.
Just consider that the activity of the Tolomazi was so controlled that the Cattaver could sanction them if they approached pilgrims in a disrespectful manner, or just simply, not appropriate to their position, as this would have caused a damage to the reputation of the city of Venice. It was in fact considered extremely important that the pilgrims, once their trip was over and they returned home, could praise Venice and above all the welcome they had received in it. In essence, Cattaver's control was aimed at promoting a positive image of Venice, almost a sort of review of modern times, to try and reduce any negative comments on the lagoon city!
Today, unfortunately, things are no longer so rigidly controlled, but Tolomazi have recently returned to action to combat rampant illegal travel in tourism. Today’s Tolomazi include the owners of more than a dozen local tourist agencies, who have gathered in an association to counter illegality in tourism services. Insidecom, our company, is part of this association and is committed on a daily basis to carrying out this ancient and precious mission aimed at guaranteeing visitors an authentic and positive experience.
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