Icons of Italian service
Franchina: Rome's best driver - A story of Italian excellence
We had a chat with our trusted driver in Rome, the legendary Franchina! A woman whom we greatly admire and who embodies the essence of Italian excellence.
Franchina, Driver and Coordinator
Tell us about yourself: When and why did you choose this profession?
“My husband passed away in just 38 days, and at that time I wasn't working. I was a mother and a wife, enjoying my life. He was a fish wholesaler but I didn't feel capable of taking over his business, which requires in-depth knowledge of the raw materials. So, I looked for something else. I was 44 years old then, and the biggest obstacle I faced was my age. I would hear people say, 'You're good, but you're old.' I worked for three years in film production, where the producer's driver suggested that I start this new venture. At first, I wasn't interested, and I didn't want to do it. However, unlike other jobs, in this field my age was an added value. I found myself caught up in this whirlwind and started doing this job. It's been quite a ride - she laughs.”
In which city do you operate?
"My base is Rome, and obviously, with my colleagues we travel throughout Italy. However, once we have taken the client to their destination, we return to Rome. We do not make stops in other locations, as stipulated by the municipal regulations. If I stay outside of Rome, it is because I am at the clients’ disposal. I always depart from Rome, no matter what."
Who are your clients?
"With all the absorption you give me... - laughs. Generally, I work for American and Italian agencies. They are mostly leisure-focused entities, with some business cases as well. Lately, we have seen a significant increase in requests. Besides the fieldwork, there is also the organization and management work in the office, so we have to adapt to our capabilities. The problem in Rome is the presence of scavengers, even in this sector. Many aim to become mercenaries, focusing on quantity rather than quality, undermining the work of those who operate with integrity and professionalism. It's a challenging situation."
You are a female driver and coordinator in a predominantly ‘male chauvinistic’ environment, how did you manage to emerge?
“Fighting for it. You go out every morning with a helmet and shield. Even karma helps. The first agency to give me a chance was a Philadelphia agency, then another group, and later you at Italyscape, with whom I made a big breakthrough, being the first ones to assign me important and high-level tasks. You said, 'You've earned it,' but you found out by giving me the opportunity to prove myself, not knowing how it would turn out. In big events, you feel like the last resort, they call you when they have no other options. Of course, it's a big battle, but the blame - and I say this with regret and difficulty - is not only on men but also on us women. I tried to bring together a group of only women, and I found only 7 who were willing to form a women's cooperative. But in the end, we couldn't complete the project because they were influenced by their husbands, brothers-in-law, and fathers. They don't want to work independently, they are subject to someone else, and they don't feel ready to take on the responsibilities. The last woman who remained committed to the idea eventually succumbed to the pressure from her partner. The blame is on us for not being able to take a firm stand.
I have always wanted to stand out and have my own job, and I have succeeded. In hindsight, others have done better - laughs. It is certainly a life of sacrifices, no vacations, no weekends off. I don't even have a sense of the days passing: I realize what day it is by the pill packets for my blood pressure medication in the morning - laughs. You lose track of time. When I am "off the car", I am in the office or we are unable to work due to protests in the city, which inevitably happen on Saturdays and create traffic jams throughout Rome."
Tell us an anecdote that has stayed with you during these years of work.
"There have been so many that it's hard to mention just one. There are many moments that I will never forget, like that time when we danced with a group of American clients during a transfer, or when I sang Stevie Wonder with an adorable couple on a return service from Naples. I enjoy working with people and having direct contact with them. Thanks to each client, new ideas and inspirations emerge every day."
What is Rome for you?
Rome is the most beautiful city in the world, there’s no doubt about it. It has everything: history, culture, archeology, and excellent food!
What aspect do you like the most and what is the biggest challenge you face?
"I feel thrilled when clients compliment me, even though my English is not perfect, but I manage to make myself understood. They still tell me that they had a great time. For me, the client should be taken to places they will remember, and I enjoy suggesting authentic Roman spots! This is what I like most about my job, seeing their warmth and gratitude at the end of the service. And many of them express it. It's the reason why you work well and feel exhilarated."
What does your extra mile consist of?
"My extra mile is truly taking care of the client, never leaving them alone even in matters that go beyond our responsibilities. It means being interested in what they do before and after, coordinating with other suppliers, and ensuring that their experience is unforgettable. Rome has many variables, and if you want to do this job well, you have to take them into account. You can't move at the last minute; I can't tolerate delays. If I don't do things well, I am penalized, and I can't afford that. My colleagues who work with me all go that extra mile, they care about our clients beyond their responsibilities. It's what makes and MUST make the difference. But this applies to all clients, every day."
In terms of sustainability, how do you think things should evolve? How do you envision Rome in the future? Do you think electric cars will make their way into the Eternal City?
"The mayor wants to implement restricted traffic zones (ZTL) for older vehicles, but then there are major events that contribute to excessive traffic in Rome. The situation should change at the top levels; we need support from public authorities. I have colleagues who have bought Tesla cars but are facing issues with battery range and charging possibilities in different parts of the city. Investment is needed to improve and enable progress. Rome could greatly benefit from initiatives like dedicated lanes for electric vehicles. Unnecessary use of private cars needs to be reduced. Let's say that a general re-education on road behavior is needed."
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