My mother and I took a Viking cruise this past summer on the Rhine River. In the planning stage of the journey, we decided to spend a few nights in London before boarding the ship in Amsterdam. We also discussed booking a post cruise stay in Lucerne, Switzerland after the cruise. I reviewed the itinerary and realized how close to Italy we were going to be and asked my mom if she wanted to tour Italy too. I planned a weeklong journey through Italy bouncing from Milan, Venice, Florence, and ending in Rome. We did the quintessential tours of Rome such as the Colosseum, Pantheon, and the Vatican.
My story begins with our tour of the Vatican. We left our hotel in a taxi, and we were taken to our meeting point. Mom and I joined our tour and off we went to the Vatican museums. We “ooh” and “ahh” at the paintings, were humbled by the beauty of the Sistine Chapel, and marveled at all the artifacts. We made our way to St. Peter’s Basilica. Our tour group was small, maybe ten people, but it was an extremely busy day at the site. Most of the tour guides carried a long stick with different items attached to the tip, such as flags and scarves, to better help guests keep up with the tour amongst the crowd. We also had earphones so we could hear our guide during the tour.
We were almost done with the basilica tour, when I turned to my right to whisper to my mom, but she wasn’t beside me. I looked all around me, and she was nowhere to be found. I went to our tour guide and informed her my mom was no longer with the group. Earlier, the tour guide had switched off her microphone to give us free time to explore. I asked her to switch it back on and make an announcement to my mom to meet the group at the front entrance. We waited a few minutes, but mom never showed. Two gentlemen in the group offered to help search for her. We split off and met back after about 5 minutes with no luck. I told the group to continue the tour without us and if I could find her, I would meet up with them at the next stop.
I restarted my search, but I was halted by a wedding procession. Who knew they still had weddings in St. Peter’s Basilica and at a decent price too! Once I could move again, I went directly to the security guard near the entrance. I informed him I could not find my mom and showed him a photo taken earlier that morning. He called over another employee to assist him in the search. I will be honest, I told them she did not hear well and had poor vision! (Mom was not pleased with me for this comment when I retold the story later.) As the two employees went off to search, I noticed a gentleman that looked like a soldier. I called him over too and explained what was happening. So, at this point, I have every branch of security searching for my geriatric mother.
The security guard returned to me and said, “madam, there it not much we can do since it is not a lost child.” If I’m lying, I’m dying! I looked that man right in the eye and said, “sir, I AM the lost child!” The look on his face was priceless. At this moment, I happened to look to my right. Walking past the front doors was a clueless woman in a flowered shirt, who according to her daughter’s description was also hearing and visually impaired! I hollered in St. Peter’s Basilica, “MOM!!!”
I grabbed her, hugged her, cried, and then scolded her like a toddler. It wasn’t my proudest moment. She informed me she was more than capable of finding her way back to the hotel. I explained to her that was all fine and dandy, but how long would she have made me stay at the Vatican looking for her? In the 10-15 minutes she had been missing, I had employed security, the police, and national guard. I would have enlisted the Pope if it would have gone on much longer.
We started walking to find our tour group. Miraculously, I could hear our tour guide talking in my headset. We found the guide and were able to rejoin the tour. Everyone started asking what had happened. Mom explained when we were given free time in the basilica, she turned around and saw the blue flag attached to the tip of a stick. She started to follow the guide. The group proceeded to go down into the crypts. As mom was in the crypt, this was the time our tour guide was making the announcement directly to her to meet at the front. The headset was not working in the crypt and mom never heard the message. She followed her tour guide out of the crypt and the group exited the basilica. Once she got outside, she realized she had followed the wrong guide. She went to a security guard and explained what had occurred. He directed her to another meeting point that passed in front of the entrance doors. She was passing these doors when she heard, “MOM!”
This was a memory for us! Mom and I laugh about it now, but I was scared to death when it happened. I hope you got a chuckle from our adventure. If you know the two of us, then you are very aware that this is par for the course. In our family, we call these “oh Nana” moments.
In all seriousness, this can happen to all of us, anywhere. If you are planning to travel to popular destinations that have enormous crowds, I encourage you to have a plan in case someone gets separated from the group. Mom and I usually do, but on this day, we failed. I have a few suggestions:
1. Pay attention to your tour guide and the members within your tour group
2. Make a mental note of your guide’s tour stick so you do not follow the wrong one
3. Pay attention to meeting points and times
4. Have a designated meeting spot if you get separated, such as the front entrance
5. Make sure you and your group have a way to contact each other while out of the country (Whats App, etc)
6. Have your tour company’s number handy if someone does get lost
7. If you are traveling with children, they have wristbands available that allow you to write parents’ contact information on them in permanent ink
8. Put a tracker on your parents! LOL
Photo that was shown to security!!! This woman puts the adventure into every vacation. I love you, Mom!