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Our Expert Tour Guides

The guides who lead our escorted tours in Europe, are true specialists - archaeologists, historians and travel writers - natural enthusiasts steeped in the history and culture of our destination countries. We choose our tour guides not just because they are extremely knowledgeable, but because they are great communicators and friendly hosts. They are there to bring the history and archaeological sites to life. They are also there to make your holiday as relaxing and inspirational as possible.

Serdar Akerdem

Peter has been working with Serdar since 1999, when Serdar acted as the local fixer on a BBC/CNN documentary series Peter was filming around the Antalya region of Turkey.

A man of many talents, not only is he a highly experienced location manager and tour guide, Serdar is a genteel, enthusiastic and knowledgeable archaeologist. He has lectured at a number of Turkish universities, and excavated and surveyed widely along Turkey’s southern shore, including major work at Patara, Tlos, and Kaunos. His major passions are Roman architecture and maritime archaeology. With his intimate understanding of the Turkish language, culture, and of course ancient sites, Serdar is a very valued member of our tour leaders.

Marcello Baglioni

Marcello first began his love affair with Italian food and wine as an 8 year old sous-chef in the kitchen of his father’s Italian restaurant in Hollywood, California. He ended up going into the food business, working as the manager of a successful catering company, before moving to Sicily where he has lived for almost two decades, immersing himself into the island’s history, food and culture.

Marcello worked for many years as a Program Director at The Mediterranean Center for Arts and Sciences in Syracuse. Since then Marcello has set himself up as a one man Sicilian culinary-cultural specialist, focusing on ‘Slow Food’ and ‘Slow Travel’. As a mark of his success, Condé Nast Traveler magazine selected him as their only Travel Specialist in Sicily on their list of World Travel Specialists. We are delighted to be working with Marcello on our Exploring Sicily and Gastronomic Sicily tours.

Dr. Richard Bayliss

After a degree in archaeology Richard lived in Turkey working at the British Institute in Ankara as a resident archaeologist. He has travelled widely around the country over many years, surveying and excavating many celebrated sites, from a church with its mosaics falling into the sea at Sinop, to the hidden rock-cut villages of Cappadocia and the Byzantine palaces, fortifications and aqueducts of Constantinople.

His PhD. focused on the rise of Christianity in the Roman cities of Asia Minor (modern Turkey). After lecturing at Newcastle University, Richard has gone on to work in building design and heritage conservation. An experienced tour leader, he has led a wide range of groups on our tours in Turkey. Noted for his knowledge and enthusiasm we are thrilled to have him as one of our specialist guides.

Prof. Julian Bennett

Julian studied Archaeology at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne, and has excavated in Britain, Germany, Romania and Turkey. He has taught at Bilkent University in Ankara since 1995 and has a particular interest in the history, archaeology and architecture of Roman and Byzantine Anatolia.

Julian has appeared in many TV documentaries for the BBC, The History Channel and National Geographic. A well-travelled and experienced tour leader, he has escorted groups throughout the Mediterranean for institutions such as the Smithsonian and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Paul Beston

Inspired by finding a musket-ball in Gibraltar, Paul spent his childhood drawing Spartans, watching historical documentaries and devouring archaeology books. Certain that life ought to revolve around his passion for the ancient world Paul studied Ancient History at King’s College, London, gaining a first, and then earned a distinction in his Masters. Alongside lecturing posts at King’s and Royal Holloway in London, he has acted as an historical adviser for TV including HBO’s Fire from Heaven. Previously he taught Classics in Hertfordshire but we are delighted that he is now full time with us. He is also working with Michael Metcalfe on the publication of some notebooks of early travellers to Greece. He has a lively interest in all periods and regions, but a particular passion for Late Antiquity, Roman Britain and the Near East. We are very glad Paul is on our team of guides.

Filip Budic

Steeped in the history and archaeology of Croatia, Filip has walked and travelled extensively across the mainland, coast and islands of his homeland. Passionate about history and archaeology since his childhood, he has worked on multiple excavations and surveys throughout Croatia as well as at sites in Kosovo, Germany, Greece, Israel and the Russian Federation. Filip holds a BA and MA in Archaeology from the University of Zagreb, where he has won numerous awards and where he is currently completing his PhD.

Filip is a man of many gifts: apart from his native Croatian, he is fluent in English and German. For many years, he has taken a hands-on interest in theatre, especially in productions of Ancient Greek plays, in which he has starred both home and abroad. A true enthusiast, persuasive public speaker and charming host, he has long expertise guiding at ancient sites both in Croatia and also abroad in Greece, Sicily and Turkey. We are truly delighted Filip will be sharing his enthusiasm and knowledge of the history, culture and landscapes of the Mediterranean with our guests this year.

Prof. Jim Crow

Jim Crow is Professor of Classical Archaeology at Edinburgh University with special research interests in Byzantine Archaeology and Roman Frontier Studies. A graduate of Birmingham and Newcastle Universities he has worked in Turkey for over twenty years and recently completed a major research project on the Water Supply of Byzantine Constantinople and the city’s hinterland fortification system ‘the Anastasian Wall’.

He directed the archaeological excavations on Hadrian’s Wall for the National Trust for some 5 years earlier in his career, and has led study tours to Istanbul and lectured on gulet cruises in Lycia and for Cunard around the Eastern Mediterranean. Jim is a marvellous enthusiast and travelling companion, and we are delighted to welcome him to our team of specialist guides.

Francesca Del Vecchio

Francesca is an art historian and professional tour guide who also specialises in museum education and art communication in the Campania region of Italy. Francesca has been working with us for several years on our Cruising the Amalfi Coast tours and we are delighted to have her as part of the Peter Sommer Travels team. A very welcoming and friendly Neapolitan, her passion and enthusiasm for this ancient city and the entire Campania Region is matched by her in-depth knowledge of its history and treasures.

Fluent in English and French, she is an excellent communicator who is very knowledgeable about the ancient and modern landscape of the region.

Dr. Sophy Downes

A passionate enthusiast of the ancient world, Sophy has travelled extensively for her studies, and devoted her life to understanding its myriad cultures. In between teaching appointments at the University of Edinburgh, University College London and the American University of Rome, she has lived for several years in Greece and Italy, and was especially delighted to be appointed as Residential Postdoctoral Fellow at the British Institute of Persian Studies in Tehran in 2011.

With a BA from Oxford, an MPhil from Cambridge and a PhD from the Institute of Archaeology, at University College London, Sophy has travelled and studied extensively in the UK, but it is her vast Mediterranean and Near Eastern knowledge that makes her such a wonderful guide for us. Fluent in Italian, and having recently returned to live in Rome, Sophy cannot wait to introduce our Peter Sommer Travels guests to the cuisine, culture, history, art, architecture and archaeology of this celebrated country. We are delighted that Sophy will be able to share her in-depth knowledge and infectious enthusiasm with our guests this year.

Dr. Cathie Draycott

Cathie Draycott is an assistant professor in Classical Archaeology at Durham University.  She specialises in the archaeology of Iron Age and Classical Anatolia, and in the study of art, visual culture and social identities.  She has previously worked as a research fellow at the University of Oxford, Koç University in Istanbul and the British Institute at Ankara, and as a lecturer at the University of Oxford and The Courtauld Institute of Art. She has authored numerous articles on art and landscapes in ancient Anatolia, and a monograph on sculpture from Kerkenes Dağı in Central Anatolia as well as two edited volumes.  She is currently working on further publications, and is conducting new research on diversity in archaeology.

Cathie likes nothing better than exploring Turkey’s ancient sites in good company.

Mislav Files

After graduating from high school, Mislav enrolled in the Department of Archaeology and continued his education through graduate levels to PhD studies, which he is currently attending at the University of Zagreb. He received Excellence Awards from the Faculty of Humanities and Social sciences for his accomplishments in both undergraduate and graduate studies, and was awarded a scholarship of excellence from the City of Zagreb for his undergraduate and postgraduate studies, and from the Department of Archaeology for his PhD studies.

Mislav has participated in numerous excavations in both Croatia and abroad (Israel and Austria) and, after graduating, started leading some of the excavations independently. While studying, Mislav became a licenced ski-instructor as well as an alpine mountaineer apprentice. He is currently employed as a researcher in the Department of Archaeology in Zagreb.

Dr. Maria Girtzi

Born in Thessaloniki, Maria is an Archaeologist and professional tour guide. She studied Archaeology and Art at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki and did her postgraduate studies on Greek Archaeology (MA and PhD.) at the University of Birmingham in the UK. She has taught History, Archaeology and Art history at the Universities of Thrace, Birmingham (UK), Cornell (USA), the Hellenic Open University and the Open University of Cyprus as well as working as a field archaeologist on excavations in Macedonia, Thrace and on Crete. Maria is the author of the book “Historical Topography of Ancient Macedonia”.

A great believer in “lifelong learning” she is involved in the design and implementation of educational programs that appeal to a wide range of ages (primary-secondary education and adults) and is an expert of the Institute of Educational Policy in Educational Programs. We are delighted to welcome her as part of our team.

Heinrich Hall

A graduate of University College Dublin and former lecturer at Trinity College, Heinrich was for many years the Assistant Director of the Irish Institute at Athens. Resident in Athens, he is an active journalist, reporting on archaeological developments and has excavated throughout Europe. He has an infectious enthusiasm for the history, traditions, cuisine, music and modern culture of the area.

Specialised in the Neolithic period, he is interested in the dynamic interaction between natural landscape and human culture. An experienced and popular tour guide, he is also co-editor of the Blue Guide to the Aegean Islands.

Dr. Olivier Henry

Olivier holds a Degree in ancient history, two Masters Degrees in ancient history and classical archaeology and a PhD from the University of Bordeaux. After a couple of years at the University of Illinois, lecturing on ancient architecture, he worked at the French Institute for Anatolian Studies, coordinating all French archaeological activities in Turkey from 2010 to 2014. He later held the Chair of Excellence in "Anatolian Archaeology" at the Ecole Normale Supérieure in Paris. After living for 10 years in Istanbul he has moved to Ankara, where he lives with his Turkish wife (also an archaeologist) and children. Olivier has excavated in Turkey since 1998, working on a variety of sites which we visit on our tours including Herakleia, Iasos and Labraunda. He has been the Excavation Director at Labraunda since 2012.

Fluent in French, English and Turkish, Olivier is a specialist in Classical Archaeology and has published extensively. Although particularly involved in the History and Archaeology of Ancient Caria, Olivier has a strong interest in Greece and Sicily. He is Professor of Greek Art and Archaeology at the University of Lyon. We are delighted Olivier will be sharing his passion, knowledge and expertise with our guests.

Lucia Iacono

Born and bred in Siracusa (Sicily), Lucia studied for a BA in foreign languages and literature at the University of Catania. After a brief stint working as an English language teacher, she followed her heart and become a qualified tourist guide, specialising initially in the South-Eastern provinces of Ragusa and Siracusa.

Lucia has over 20 years’ experience in this field, but still works with the same passion and enthusiasm with which she began. She loves introducing people to the unbelievable wealth of art, archaeology and culture that Sicily has to offer, and is always on the lookout for something new, exciting and interesting that reveals the true quirks of Sicilian culture.

Prof. Ivana Jevtic

Ivana nurtured a passion for art and the past since her childhood. Growing up in the former Yugoslavia, she developed a particular interest for the history of the Balkans and studied art history at the University of Belgrade before receiving her doctoral degree at the University of Paris 1-Panthéon Sorbonne. A specialist in Byzantine art, architecture and history, Ivana has been teaching in Istanbul at Koç University since 2010 and is currently Assistant Professor in the Department of Archaeology and History of Art.

A wonderfully enthusiastic and inspiring guide, Ivana has escorted many of our guests in Istanbul over the years and received high praise. Not only has she led numerous tours in Turkey, she is internationally accomplished having led tours throughout mainland Greece and the Greek Islands, across the Balkans including Serbia, Kosovo and Macedonia, as well as Rome and Ravenna for the New York School of Visual Arts.

Nota Karamaouna

Born and bred in Athens, Nota has been travelling to Turkey, especially Cappadocia, for many years, captivated by its multicultural history, the spectacular landscape and the warm local hospitality. With a degree in Archaeology and Art History and a Masters in Byzantine Archaeology, she is currently finishing her PhD. at the École Pratique des Hautes Etudes in Paris, focusing on the Byzantine churches of Cappadocia.

Nota has excavated and surveyed at a number of sites in Cappadocia and elsewhere in Turkey, and at sites in Greece, ranging from the island of Kos to central Athens. Alongside her academic studies she has worked for a specialist Byzantine photo-library and the Byzantine Museum of Athens. A native Greek-speaker, she is fluent in English and French (and is picking up Turkish too) and puts her language skills to use as a freelance translator and editor. We are very pleased Nota will be sharing her passion and expertise with our guests.

Nikos Lanser

Born to a Dutch father and a Greek mother in Rotterdam, Nikos Lanser was always interested in anything Greek. He studied and received a degree in ancient Greek history at Leiden University before working in broadcasting, and taught Greek from his early student years onwards. For a decade he did PR work and business consultancy, before he moved to Athens, Greece, where he obtained a degree at the National Guides School in 2002. Since then he has been working as a professional guide throughout the country. At the same time he is a correspondent for Dutch media, reporting on economic, social and political topics. Nikos is married and has two daughters. His love for Greece is contagious and he will make the country and its history come alive.

Valeria Lenuzza

Valeria is a very popular and extremely talented tour manager and guide on our Rome tour. After graduating in Classical studies, academic life took her to Athens, where she gained a Master’s in Aegean Prehistory at the Italian Archaeological School and undertook archaeological research and exploration throughout Greece and Turkey. After gaining her PhD in Aegean Archaeology, she dedicated several years to international archaeological projects and fieldwork, focussing on the stunning pre- and early palatial culture of Bronze Age Crete.

Shifting her sights to art education and tourism management, she became a qualified tour guide of Rome and Latium and has worked here for many years. Valeria knows the sites and museums of Rome backwards, and her superb explanations of the hidden aspects of artworks are a real highlight for our travellers. Add an intimate knowledge of the bureaucratic complexities of the city that means you’ll never know they existed, and you’ll see why we feel lucky to have her with us in Rome.

Dr. Michael Metcalfe

Michael earned his PhD at University College London, focusing on the ancient Greek cities in the Eastern Aegean Islands and Western Turkey. While finishing this research, Michael lived and worked in Athens and Ankara as well as London, and took up his first academic post as Assistant Professor in Ancient History at The Mediterranean Center for Arts and Sciences in Sicily, before joining Peter Sommer Travels full time in January 2009. A specialist in Greek and Latin inscriptions and social history, Michael is currently studying the unpublished diaries of early British Travellers to Greece, Turkey and Sicily, and is involved in publishing inscriptions from many parts of the Eastern and Central Mediterranean. Michael co-edited the Blue Guide to the Aegean Islands and has been contributing editor to the last two editions of the Blue Guide to Sicily.

Michael has designed and led many of our tours, and received rapturous praise. Not only is he 'enthusiastic, charming, and knowledgeable', he is also a natural born organiser. We are delighted to have him as one of our key team.

Dr. Graham Oliver

Graham undertook both his undergraduate and doctoral studies in Classics at Oxford University before moving to The University of Liverpool in 1994, where he taught until 2013 when he moved to Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island to take up the role of Professor of Classics.

Fluent in French and Greek, Graham has lectured in the USA and throughout Europe to audiences of all ages. He most recently produced a book on ancient and modern war memorials and is an expert in Greek inscriptions: he was a key part of the team that made a new study of the queen of inscriptions, the Res Gestae (Achievements) of the Divine Augustus, inscribed on the Temple of Rome and Augustus at Ankara in Turkey. He believes passionately in bringing history and the ancient world to life, and has worked and travelled extensively in the Mediterranean and led numerous groups around the region’s archaeological sites. We are delighted Graham can share his knowledge and enthusiasm with our guests.

Anastasios Papadopoulos

As an archaeologist, Anatasasios has dug a huge variety of sites in Greece, covering thousands of years of its history – everything from the Neolithic to the mediaeval Byzantine era, particularly in his beloved north. He has a degree in history, an MA in Byzantine Archaeology and is studying for a PhD at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki. Having excavated widely for a decade, from the lovely Khalkidiki peninsula to urban rescue excavations in Thessaloniki, he’s since turned his encyclopedic knowledge in a new direction and become a licensed tour guide.

As well as working with us, he designs and runs his own cultural and walking tours around Thessaloniki and northern Greece with an extraordinary array of themes encompassing a phenomenal historical sweep. With his comprehensive personal experience of so much of Greek culture, history and archaeology, you couldn’t have a better companion for your trip.

Robert Pitt

Robert Pitt is an historian specialising in ancient Greek inscriptions. After studying for a degree and Masters in Ancient History, he is in the process of completing his PhD. from Royal Holloway, University of London. He was Assistant Director of the British School of Archaeology at Athens from 2007-2014 and is a faculty member at College Year in Athens.

Robert has participated in excavations in Greece, Turkey and Albania, worked as Special Assistant in the Greek and Roman Department of The British Museum and led tours around Greece and Turkey. A keen walker and sailor he has a passion for travel and exploring the ancient sites and cultures of the Mediterranean.

Dr. Spencer Pope

Spencer received his PhD in Classical Archaeology from Brown University, after studying and living in both Greece and Italy for several years, and is now Associate Professor in the Department of Classics at McMaster University in Ontario (Canada). A specialist in Greek architecture, urbanization and the development of the built environment, his research focuses on the expansion of the Greek world and the establishment of overseas settlements in Sicily and Southern Italy.

Spencer has excavated extensively in Italy, and continues to spend several months of each year in Rome, Sicily and Athens. The author of several articles on Greek and Indigenous Sicily as well as Greek financial inscriptions, he is currently completing a monograph on the frontiers of the Greek cities of Sicily in the Archaic and Classical Periods.

Peter Sommer

Peter studied Ancient History and Archaeology at Birmingham University before completing a Masters on the archaeology of Central Asia. He has taught at Birmingham University and Istanbul’s Bogaziçi Üniversitesi (Bosphorus University). In 1994 he walked 2,000 miles across Turkey, retracing the route of Alexander the Great, and fell deeply in love with the country. For this epic journey he received The Explorers Club of America Young Expeditioners’ award. Two years into a PhD. at University College London, he was seduced into television to work on In the Footsteps of Alexander the Great (BBC/PBS).

An award-winning documentary producer, he has shot around the world for acclaimed series like Millennium: A thousand years of history (BBC/CNN), Commanding Heights: the Battle for the World Economy (PBS/BBC), and Tales from the Green Valley (BBC).

Prof. Tony Spawforth

Tony Spawforth is emeritus professor of ancient history at Newcastle University, UK, and was recently visiting fellow at the British School at Athens (2014) and fellow of the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton. A freelance writer, lecturer and broadcaster he is well known for presenting documentaries for the BBC such as Alexander The God King, Flightpaths to the Gods and Egypt’s Lost City. His published books including Greece: An Oxford Archaeological Guide, The Complete Greek Temples, The Oxford Classical Dictionary, The Story of Greece and Rome and the bestselling Versailles: A Biography of a Palace.

Tony has excavated on Crete and Sicily and has considerable experience as a tour leader across the Mediterranean. We are extremely pleased that he will be sharing his enthusiasm and expertise with our guests.

Dr. Nigel Spivey

Peter had the good fortune of directing Nigel a few years back in a documentary about Britain’s ancient monuments. We are absolutely delighted that he is one of our tour leaders.

Nigel is a Fellow of Emmanuel College and Senior Lecturer in Classics at Cambridge University, where he teaches Classical Art and Archaeology. His books include The Ancient Olympics, Greek Art, and Panorama of the Classical World. A renowned TV presenter, his credits include How Art Made the World (BBC), Kings and Queens, and Heroes of World War II. He’s also an experienced tour lecturer. His knowledge and passion make him an ideal guide for bringing past Mediterranean cultures to life.

Dr. Jennifer Tobin

Jennifer received her BA in Classical Studies from Stanford University and her PhD in Classical Archaeology from the University of Pennsylvania and is professor emerita in the Department of Classics and Mediterranean Studies at the University of Illinois at Chicago.  Her first teaching position was at Bilkent University in Ankara, Turkey, where she developed a lifelong love of Anatolian Archaeology.  Jennifer first met Peter Sommer back in 1994 at the end of his Alexander the Great walk in Turkey, when she was digging at the ancient city of Issus.  A specialist in Greco-Roman architecture and a seasoned archaeologist, Jennifer has excavated in Cyprus, Greece, Turkey and Jordan and has published widely on topics including Lycian tombs, Roman temples in the Palestinian Territories, and the Governor’s Palace at Caesarea Maritima in Israel. She has recorded a series of lectures for Modern Scholar, focusing on Greek, Roman and Anatolian archaeology, as well as the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.

A renowned tour leader, noted for her passion and enthusiasm, Jennifer has been leading trips in Turkey  and Greece since 1993 for companies and institutions such as the Smithsonian.

Caitlin White

Caitlin is a graduate of Trinity College, Dublin and the National University of Ireland, Galway. She has always had an interest in modern Irish history and is currently undertaking a PhD at Trinity College, Dublin, where she is researching how history was used in the 1920s and 1930s in Ireland to create a national identity and narrative. Caitlin has worked at the Abbey Theatre, Ireland's national theatre, developing tours and historical talks on the Abbey, and with the National Museum of Ireland as a tour guide. She speaks both English and Irish.

She grew up in Tipperary, Ireland, where she was surrounded by local history and has developed a keen interest in Irish culture and identity. She is passionate about sharing history with the public and learning about new cultures.

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