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Drawing on ethnographic research conducted in Genoa, a northern Italian city whose deindustrialization process began in the early 1970s, this paper explores how the city’s high levels of intellectual unemployment have given rise to the profession of walking tour guides. These are highly educated women, and more rarely men, who, working independently of the financial and political powers that usually drive urban revitalization processes, utilize their cultural capital and talents to spin itinerant tales of concealment and discovery around the master narrative of Genoa’s decline and its tourist potential. Through an analysis of their professional histories and experiences as well as the ways they present the city, I argue that the guides comprise a sui generis “creative class” (Florida 2012) that helps transform Genoa into a city worth visiting. In their attempt to boost cultural tourism, tour guides inhabit a liminal space from where they vie for legitimacy, build professional personas that both challenge and reinforce gender norms, and straddle contested lines between high and popular culture, and between amateurism and professionalism. I contend that, compared with Richard Florida’s (2012) upwardly mobile “talents,” Genoa’s walking tour guides form a residual creative class that emerges out of necessity and struggles to survive by creatively exploiting the “hiddenness” of a densely layered cityscape.


Author accepted manuscript version of an article published by Wiley in

Guano, Emanuela. 2015. “Touring the Hidden City: Walking Tour Guides in Deindustrializing Genoa.” City & Society 27 (2): 160–82.

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