At 10:00 am sharp on a Monday morning, Exciting Tours of Boston© owner Ralph Spinelli arrives in a gleaming white van, eager to embark on our excursion and share his wealth of knowledge. As a historian and raconteur, Spinelli wastes no time sharing anecdotes and pointing out historical landmarks that I have managed to shuffle by hundreds of times. He even complements his lecture with an assortment of handouts for further enrichment. Thus, ten minutes into our trip, I have already learned more about historic Boston and the American Revolution than I can ever remember learning in my high school history class.
Spinelli’s enthusiasm for the subject is contagious and makes for a truly unique and enjoyable tour. Unlike most tour guides that rattle off the same old routine, Spinelli’s are carefully tailored for a specific audience. In fact, his desire to please patrons and willingness to go the extra mile make him more like a concierge behind the wheel –ready to make a restaurant recommendation or stop for a much-needed bathroom break at a moment’s notice.
When asked how long Spinelli has been in the tour business, he replies, “Since I was seven. I used to walk the streets of Boston reading plaques and photographing them so I could study them later.” While his research of Boston has been a life-long effort, the Exciting Tours of Boston business grew out of a hobby. Thirty years ago, while Spinelli was working as an engineer, he would often volunteer his time to show international clients around the city; “I wanted to make sure they enjoyed themselves while they were here and give them an experience they couldn’t get from a map.”
The one-time hobby has grown into a successful business. “I offer something that no one else in the city can. Therefore, I don’t need to advertise; most of my clients come from hotel recommendations or word of mouth.” With the mission statement, “If you don’t give the best service, you give disservice,” Exciting Tours has become synonymous with quality touring and is a go-to for tourists from around the globe. He’s driven everyone from royalty to movie stars to CEO’s and, most recently, Tom Cruise. Despite a long list of celebrity clientele, Spinelli remains humble. He insists that the best form of payment is hearing from his customers that their trip wouldn’t have been the same without him. In fact, he recalls two of the most rewarding tours he ever gave “when both tours were over, each client was thoroughly satisfied and thankful that I had helped them to ‘see’ Boston through my eyes.” Both clients were totally blind.
With dozens of routes to choose from, and the option to customize your own private trail, Exciting Tours of Boston offers something for everyone, visitors and Bostonians alike. Some variations include: Boston & Cambridge, Lexington & Concord, Salem & Marblehead, and even the upper Cape, Plymouth, and the Newport Mansions. Spinelli also knows a variety of more obscure trails like the Boston Women’s Heritage Trail, the Black Heritage Trail, the New England Authors trails, and the Jewish & Irish trail. If you can’t decide, or only have a few days to see Massachusetts, Spinelli offers an all-in-one tour of Boston, Cambridge, Lexington, Concord, Salem, and Marblehead.
Seasonal and specialty tours include Spinelli’s fall foliage tours for all the “leaf peepers,” and the college campus tour, which is a great way for potential students to experience Boston’s biggest export – higher education. Students are Some of Spinelli’s favorite people to drive, and he is quick to offer them his wisdom, “I always tell kids ‘whatever you take up, make sure you like it, otherwise it’s called work. Do it with a passion or stay home.’” Spinelli makes sure to practice what he preaches, and the passion he brings to his work is evident in every smile.
After three whirlwind hours that seemed like twenty minutes, I am still trying to keep up with all the information I have just been given. Spinelli looks like he could have gone on all day, but instead leaves us with a Shakespearean quote: “Parting is such sweet sorrow.” †
To enjoy your own exciting tour of Boston, contact the raconteur himself, Ralph Spinelli, at: 617.699.6140.