Venice

“I’m your travel angel”

by Rebecca Bricker on August 23, 2015

I have a secret life as a travel angel.

During my walks around Florence, I sometimes sense distress. It often comes from American compatriots, who have their noses in a map.

If it’s a couple, I usually hear the woman say, “Let’s just ask someone.”

At that point, I step forward and say, “Hello, I’m your travel angel. Do you need some help?”

Typically, in unison, the man says No and the woman says Yessssss.

Often, my job is easy. I simply point these lost souls in the right direction and send them on their merry way. If I sense imminent divorce, I might suggest a place to cool their heels and tempers. Gelato usually does the trick.

 

One day, I was waiting at a bus stop next to my favorite gelateria. There was a foursome nearby — an older couple and a younger couple, who looked to be related. The older man had a map of Florence spread out in front of him. His wife was insisting they ask for directions. The son/son-in-law was stage-whispering to his spouse, “Let’s just get a cab and go.”

A family splintering before my eyes. Emergency action was required.

“Hello, I’m your travel angel,” I said. “I sense distress. I’m here to help.”

For a moment, they looked at me as though they could see my angelic wings. I glanced over my shoulder to make sure my feathers weren’t showing.

Their immediate problem wasn’t serious — they simply had to get themselves to Rental Car Row, which was just a few blocks away.

I pointed the way and the son/son-in-law asked if they could hire me for the day.

Their bigger problem — and my bigger concern — was that they planned to rent motor scooters for the day.

“Have you ever driven scooters before?” I asked.

“No — well, he has,” said the older woman, nodding toward her husband. “But he ran into a pole.”

“Are you sure this a good idea?” I wrote my phone number on my card and handed it to her. Then I quietly sent up an alert to the Guardian Angel Division, which handles high-risk situations.

I suggested they take a short break at my favorite gelateria, by the bus stop, which they did. I waved to them as I got on the bus. They looked like a happy family, enjoying their cups of gelato.

My favorite travel angel encounter happened one evening at a pizzeria near my apartment. A young newlywed American couple were at the table next to mine. They were both in the U.S. Army, stationed in Texas. He had planned the entire honeymoon as a surprise to her. She didn’t even know they were going to Italy until the airline ticket agent at the counter said, “Your bags will be checked through to Rome.”

This new husband clearly delighted in the joy he was giving his bride each day. He had planned the day’s itineraries in advance — arranging for tours and tickets as needed — but allowing for spontaneity. Each day was a surprise for her as he took her on their first dream trip together as husband and wife.

At one point during dinner, when she slipped away to the ladies’ room, he asked my advice about the following day’s itinerary.

And then I asked, “I assume you’re going to Venice next?”

He nodded. “But she doesn’t know that yet.”

“I won’t say a word.”

As we said good-night, I wished them a happy life together. I gave him my card and told him to e-mail me if he needed any suggestions.

For the remainder of their honeymoon, I received an e-mail from him each day, asking my opinion about the next day’s activities.

On the last day of their honeymoon, he wrote from Venice, “We have one more day — what should we do?”

I wrote back: “If you want her to remember, for the rest of her life, how much she loves you today, take her on an evening gondola ride.”

His reply: “Will do! Thanks so much.”

I hope they’re living happily ever after.

I love being a travel angel.