CFDb Interviews John & Ashley Noronha of Know Rome with John and Ashley Tours
= > Please tell us more about your background and how you first got started with tours?
Both of us have been walking a winding path – anything but straight – that lead us to Rome!
John is currently a Director of the Caput Mundi Academy in Rome and a Professor of Theology and Art and Architecture. Formerly, he worked as an engineer with a Bachelors degree in Fiber Optic Communications and Masters in Computer Engineering and Information Systems.
John worked for many years in the telecommunications industry with the Technology and Initiatives Group at Verizon Global Telecommunications, before doing another Master’s in Philosophy and Theology. He is a Wilbur Fellow and is also working on a PhD in BioMedical Ethics at the Pontifical University of the Regina Apostolorum.
Ashley’s background is in event and lifestyle marketing. After working in that industry for 15 years in medical, lifestyle and event marketing for various clients including Universal Pictures, Jaguar, JCPenney, 3Com, Sony, M&M Mars and Kraft Foods, she decided to do a Master’s Degree in Theology. Upon its completion she went on to earn a Licentiate of Sacred Theology in the field of Communications and Journalism. Ashley is currently working on her Doctorate in Communications at the Pontifical University of Santa Croce in Rome.
Ashley currently teaches “Media Training” for various orders, seminaries and Christian organizations around the world. This training is meant to help prepare one to share the Truth most effectively, especially with the media. She is the Rome Correspondent for the Relevant Radio Network in the USA where you can catch her every Monday morning live at 8.00 am ET. She is the Coordinator of the Covering Religion in Rome journalism seminar and the Church Up Close conference for journalists. She also works in Social Communications for the Vatican.
We came to Rome five years ago, right after we got married. We really felt the Holy Spirit calling us to Rome, although we didn’t exactly know why.
At our wedding, our poor guests were dumbfounded when asking us about our future plans … and discovering that we really didn’t have any. A typical conversation would go something like this:
“So you’ve quit your jobs?”
“Do you have new jobs lined up in Rome?”
“Do you know where you’ll live there?”
“But you’re still moving to Rome?”
This was followed by lots of head shaking.
When we arrived in Rome, we didn’t know how we’d find jobs or where we’d live, but since we were confident that the Lord was calling us there, we knew that meant that He would work out the details. And He has.
Our tour guiding (Know Rome with John and Ashley Noronha) is one of the many projects that we do in Rome. We got into guiding because of the great need for authentic guides who know and understand the Church, Rome and the Vatican. In order to do justice to a tour in Rome and of the Vatican it is important to have a background in Theology, Philosophy and Church and Roman History, in addition to Art and Architecture. Thus, with our backgrounds and qualifications, we realized that it was important to use our expertise in bring to life the historic, artistic and spiritual treasures of the Eternal City. We feel blessed to be able to move hearts and souls through this.
In order to share Rome and its treasures with those who cannot be in Rome physically, we also did some episodes for EWTN’s Vatican Reports called, “Art & Faith.” They demonstrate how art and faith come together in the Eternal City, like in no other place in the world. We are preparing to film another 10 part series this summer. Some of the episodes are posted under the “TV Appearances” tab on our website.
= > Can you describe for us what a typical tour with you would be like?
We offer private, customized tours, so our tours are as different as our clients.
Before our guests arrive in Rome we discuss what they’d like to see, their personal interests and the amount of time that they have. We then design an experience to suit them. We offer everything from tours of the Vatican, Christian Rome, the Footsteps of Peter and Paul and of the Ancient City of Rome to food tours.
= > Do you have tours available on DVD for purchase? If not, is that something you would consider?
We do not have anything like that on DVD, but yes, would consider doing that.
= > Do you ever personally do any of the tours? If so, what is your favorite tour?
It is only the two of us who do the tours. Normally only one of us will give each tour, but sometimes, for bigger groups, we do them together.
Ashley – my favorite is the food tour because it is great fun to share the delicacies of Italian food and cuisine and to compliment ‘food for the body’ with ‘food for the soul’.
John – My favorite is the Vatican Museums because it is through the historic artifacts and beautiful art that I get to help people experience the transcendentals of goodness, beauty and truth. Gazing upon the striking beauty that raises our hearts, minds and souls, reminds us that this is but a glimpse of what it will be like to see God, the Fullness of Goodness, Beauty and Truth. We are reminded that now we see these things only dimly as in an [old] mirror, and can only imagine what it will be to one day see Him face to face (1 Cor 13:12).
= > How can others learn more details about your tours?
Our website is the best place to learn more about what we do and to get itinerary ideas too: www.johnandashey.org.
= > Share with us more about your journalism experience and how you became an expert on Vatican issues?
Ashley – I first lived in Rome and was a Vatican Tour guide during the Jubilee Year, 2000. During this time I got to know so many special people who are working for the Vatican and I also fell in love with the city. I never dreamed that I’d one day again make Rome my home.
Now, after again living here and working close to the Vatican for so many years, and as a journalist working with TV and radio and writing on Vatican-related issues, these things have made me an expert on church and Vatican related issues.
I am also doing a doctorate in Communications and Journalism at a Pontifical University, which also specializes in Vatican and Church based communications.
= > How are your tours unique from other tours?
Ashley – As guides who live and breathe Rome, we offer a unique insider’s perspective to the city. Our tours offer the chance to see off-the-beaten-path Rome with fully customizable, flexible experiences designed to suit our guests’ time, interests and budget. In doing this, we help bring the amazing story of Rome to life, in an educational and fun way and make the Roman experience an unforgettable one.
John – With such diverse backgrounds, culturally and academically, we are able to give our guests a tour that is enjoyable, fun and memorable, which can be customized with an emphasis on their specific interests, whether it is history, Christianity, art or culture. Recently an art historian who toured with us said she got more in a few hours with us than in an entire college semester!
= > Tell us more about “Rome in the Movies.”
Countless films have been filmed in Rome. You might remember favorites like Spartacus (1960), I, Claudius (1937), Caesar and Cleopatra (1945), Gladiator (2000), Eat, Pray, Love (2010), Only You (1994), Romeo and Juliet (1968), The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966), The Bourne Identity (2002), To Rome with Love (2012).
And who can forget the iconic scene in Fellini’s La Dolce Vita, when Anita Ekbert whimsically wades in the Trevi Fountain? The Trevi fountain is also featured in the 1954 film, Three Coins in a Fountain. In the course of the film, three American women throw a single coin in the Trevi Fountain. It’s that film that led to the contemporary tradition that many visitors to Rome keep today – throwing three coins in the fountain in hopes of one day returning to Rome.
Our personal top pick is always Roman Holiday. Audrey Hepburn plays a princess who enjoys one day in Rome on a back of a Vespa, guided by Gregory Peck. Their adventures take the viewer all over the city to enjoy the major sites of Rome, along with a great taste of Roman culture.
= > Have any Christian movies been filmed in any of the tour locations that you offer? If so, please name them.
Many Christian movies have been filmed in the Eternal City, on the soil where the blood of so many Christian martyrs were shed. Some classics are King of Kings, The Robe, Passion of the Christ, Barabbas, Demetrius and the Gladiators, Constantine and the Cross, The Inquiry and Pontius Pilate.
Some of our personal favorites are, Quo Vadis, Ben Hur – epics set in ancient Rome – and The Scarlet and the Black, which takes place in Rome of the 1940’s.
Quo Vadis tells the story of a Roman commander and the great persecution of Christians under the Emperor Nero. During that time, Peter, the leader of the Christians, was arrested and crucified upside down in the Circus of Nero, for not denying his faith.
In the story of Ben Hur, he is unjustly accused of treason. Who can forget the powerful moment when Ben Hur meets Jesus on the road, who mercifully gives the thirsty prisoner water?
And the Scarlet and the Black! An endearing and emotional film that tells the true story of Monsignor Hugh O’Flaherty, an Irish Catholic priest who saved thousands of Jews and Allied refugee POWs in Nazi-occupied Rome.
= > Do you envision your tours expanding? If so, how.
We are planning on training others to be excellent guides. With those who have the right backgrounds and qualifications, we want to raise up more great guides so the circle can continue.
We are also in the process of writing books to share our passion and knowledge of the Eternal City.
In the meantime, between teaching and working on our other jobs and projects, we really enjoy bringing to life and sharing the Eternal City with visitors whenever we possibly can. It is truly a joy and blessing for us.
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