The day we spent with Giovanni was one of the best days we had on our entire trip. Giovanni understands the city like no other. He took us to places that we could never go to on our own. He helped us to get to know the people in the city and the city itself. Giovanni opened our eyes to the TRUE New York. His love for the city was truly inspiring. Giovanni is not only an incredible photographer but he is kind, caring, and interested in the world around him. He is one of a kind and there is no other tour guide like him. He makes you feel as though you are from New York rather than a tourist. Giovanni speaks the way his photographs do.
Giovanni Savino gave my group of seven students from Southern California exactly what we were seeking: a gritty, colorful, real-life glimpse of the city from the inside. He walked us through a street fair in little Italy where the owner of one booth lovingly pressed custom-filled Cannoli’s into the hands of my delighted students. That was breakfast. Periodically, Giovanni stopped and shared an anecdote from his own experience behind the camera in the city's trenches. Instead of imparting dates and names that we would inevitably forget, he explained how little Italy's demographics have changed since it was first settled and how now many of the chefs are actually from Mexico! My students witnessed firsthand how the city's neighborhoods constantly morph from one culture into another, sometimes gradually and sometimes radically, just from crossing an avenue. Although they had already travelled to several parts of China, they were stunned when only minutes later, Giovanni led us up an escalator into the ultimate Dim Sum restaurant of all time in an obscure Chinese mall one would never know existed. They observed the intriguing global phenomenon that there seemed to be less American cultural influence in Chinatown than in many areas of Beijing. Having then hopped an A train, we walked crosstown on 125th street, savoring shaved ice in little cones and mingling with families enjoying their Sunday afternoons. Later we travelled further North into the Bronx, and trekked along the Grand Concourse, standing to admire its faded glory in the facade of the old Lowe's theater, or in gargoyles and ornate architectural touches at the tops of certain prewar buildings. On or way to the cross town bus, Giovanni wordlessly guided us past the shop windows that told their tales of rapacious commerce. We got off the bus way uptown in the cooling breeze from Inwood Park and collapsed on Giovanni’s living room floor. Only a story as seamless and inspiring a Giovanni’s could have held my students’ attention at that point. Although hot and thirsty, they listened raptly as he narrated a slideshow of his stunning photographs and challenged them to pursue their passion for the arts.