Venice has tour guides licensed by the government. Some are eminently qualified in relevant fields such as architecture and art history and are a pleasure to spend time with. Lots of private guides have websites, and you can check the travel forums at fodors.com for recommendations (it’s best to book before you leave home, as popular guides and tours are in demand). Once in Venice, tourist offices and hotel concierges can also provide the names of knowledgeable local guides and the rates for certain services.
Abercrombie & Kent. 800/554–7016; 630/725–3400; www.abercrombiekent.com. From $6,995.
Maupin Tour. 800/255–4266; 954/653–3820; www.maupintour.com. From $3,585.
Perillo Tours. 800/431–1515; www.perillotours.com. From $2,395.
Travcoa. 888/979--2806; 310/730–1263; www.travcoa.com. From $3,145.