CHARLIE HALL IS A TOUR GUIDE WITH KIRKER HOLIDAYS, A LEADING CULTURAL TOUR OPERATOR
“Italy is my specialist subject and I’m there about four months of the year. I’ve been going since the ‘60s as a child, when my
father set up the John Hall Venice Course for students taking a gap year (although it wasn’t called that then), which I now run.
I took my Masters in Italian Art History at London University, so it’s in my genes really.
Kirker clients are generally retired, so they have time on their hands and a sense of curiosity and a working interest in, if not a knowledge of, the places we visit. They’re a very broad spectrum of
people. I’ve sat at dinner tables with scientists, philosophers, politicians, judges. They all have a similar interest, whether it be the gardens around Rome or an opera production.
The job can be exhausting, but unless something goes wrong – somebody has a fall or has something stolen – it’s a holiday for everybody, including me. You have to have people skills and you have to be articulate and considerate. And you have to have time management skills, because you have to have that day’s itinerary in your mind all the time. And of course you have to have the knowledge.
Everybody wants to have a good time, but I always say, if there’s an issue about anything, please talk to me, because I can fix it. You have to make your group feel absolutely confident that you are capable of dealing with every eventuality.
Venice is the city I love most. In the church of the Frari there are two amazing artworks. Giovanni Bellini’s lovely, intimate altarpiece
is a wonderful example of how these Venetian guys worked with a framemaker. This was at the end of the 15th century,
when they were all into perspective and the idea of creating a pictorial reality and a 3D space within a painting. You look at this thing and you cannot work out where the painting
ends and the frame begins.
Then there’s another beautiful altarpiece by Titian, which is a gigantic explosion of power and energy and vitality called ‘The
Assumption of the Virgin’. The Venetians were great at colour. They controlled trade with the Far East, so all the colours and
minerals that came in went to Venice first before anywhere else in Europe. So the Venetian ‘usp’ in art is colour.”