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 Croatia 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 also speaks basic German and Spanish and 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 for the Amalfi Coast, Sicily and the Aeolian Islands with our guests in Italy this year.

Dr. Cathie Draycott

Before moving into archaeology, Cathie first trained as an artist with a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. Her Doctorate in Classical Archaeology at Oxford University focused on Greek and Roman sculpture and the art and archaeology of Anatolia (ancient Turkey).

Cathie has worked as a researcher and lecturer at the University of Oxford and is currently a Senior Research Fellow at the Koç University’s Research Center for Anatolian Civilizations working on a project on Art and Economy in 5th century Lycia. She is also working on a number of books that focus on the imagery on ancient monumental tombs. Cathie likes nothing better than exploring Turkey’s ancient sites in fine company. We are very pleased to welcome her to our team.

Mislav Files

Mislav Fileš was born in Zagreb, Croatia on May 17th, 1992. After graduating from high school, he enrolled in undergraduate study of Archaeology and continued his education through graduate levels to PhD studies which he is currently attending at the University of Zagreb. He was awarded with Excellence Awards from the Faculty of Humanities and Social sciences for his accomplishments in both undergraduate and graduate studies. He was also awarded a scholarship of excellence from City of Zagreb for undergraduate and postgraduate studies as well as the award for excellence in PhD studies from the Department of Archaeology.

Throughout his studies Mislav was a part of numerous excavations teams in his country and abroad (Israel, Austria) and after graduating he started leading some of the excavations independently. During his studies Mislav finished courses and became licenced ski-instructor as well as alpine mountaineer apprentice. He is currently employed as a research staff at 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

Fluent in four languages (including Greek), Heinrich has studied at University College Dublin, lectured at Trinity College Dublin and was for many years the Assistant Director of the Irish Institute at Athens. A resident of Athens, he is active as a journalist reporting archaeological and cultural developments in print, online, as well as on radio and television.

Heinrich has excavated throughout the Eastern Mediterranean, and has an infectious enthusiasm for the history, traditions, cuisine, music and modern culture of the area. An experienced and popular guide for our tours in Greece and Turkey, he is currently finishing his PhD. for University College Dublin, is engaged in academic work on the prehistory of the Aegean and is 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 focusing on the region of Caria in south-west Turkey. After a couple of years at the University of Illinois, lecturing on ancient architecture, he settled in Istanbul where he lives with his Turkish wife (also an archaeologist) and children. Fluent in French, English and Turkish he is a specialist on ancient (Karian) funerary architecture and published extensively. He now works at the French Institute for Anatolian Studies, coordinating all French archaeological activities in Turkey.

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. 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.

Dr. Michael Metcalfe

Like Peter, Michael studied for his PhD. at University College London, however Michael took the trouble to actually finish his - focusing on the ancient Greek cities of western Turkey!

For many years Michael was Assistant Professor in Ancient History at The Mediterranean Center for Arts and Sciences in Sicily, before joining us full time in January 2009. A specialist in deciphering ancient inscriptions, Michael is the co-editor of the Blue Guide to the Aegean Islands and the editor of the Blue Guide to Sicily. He speaks Greek, Italian, and Turkish. Michael has led many gulet tours for us previously in the Mediterranean, 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 is a lecturer in Ancient History at The University of Liverpool as well as a Visiting Fellow at the British School at Athens. He believes passionately in bringing sites and monuments to life as part of the living history that we see when exploring today’s ancient world. His PhD. at Oxford University focused on the politics and food supply of ancient Athens and he has worked and travelled extensively in the Mediterranean and led numerous groups around the region’s archaeological sites.

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. 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. With his extensive and profound knowledge of Italy, and admirable fluency in the language, we are delighted that Spencer is able to lead some of our Italian tours for us this year.

Özlem Simsek

Özlem is a passionate and enthusiastic tour guide who enjoys nothing more than sharing her wealth of knowledge and love of her country with our guests. She has a masters degree in classical archaeology and is currently studying for her PhD. at Ege University. Her master’s degree explored the Overseas Colonisation Activities of the Ancient City of Clazomenae, one of the ancient Ionian cities (which also happens to be the town where Ozlem now lives). She also has a background in art history and her thesis work also involved ancient Greek vase painting.

A member of a classical choir (as an alto), she is also interested in Turkey’s culinary history, nature and horticulture, as well as traveling. Özlem is very much looking forward to sharing the landscape and history of ancient Anatolia with our guests and we are delighted she is part of our team.

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 professor of ancient history at Newcastle University, UK, Visiting Fellow at the British School at Athens (2014) and a former 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, 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 in bringing Turkey’s past to life.

Dr. Jennifer Tobin

Peter met Jennifer digging at the ancient city of Issus back in 1994 at the end of his Alexander the Great walk in Turkey. We are delighted she is part of our team.

Jennifer is Associate Professor of Classics at the University of Illinois at Chicago. She has dug in Turkey, Israel, and Greece, speaks Greek and Turkish, and published widely on everything from Roman architecture in Syria to Alexander the Great as a builder. A renowned tour leader, noted for her passion and enthusiasm, she has been leading trips in Turkey 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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