My wife and I attended a fundraiser for a local Hospital several years ago and one of the major auction prizes was a special trip to Italy. Being that it was our upcoming 35th Anniversary at the time, and that we had never been to Italy, we got absolutely “carried away” bidding on it and won. The trip originated in Milan (where I actually got to stand on the main stage at the historic La Scala Opera House during a private tour), and continued on to Venice, Tuscany, Rome, The Amalfi Coast and Capri. We, like millions of other tourists to this fabulous country were absolutely overwhelmed by the beauty of the country, the history, the people and of course the food. However, I never dreamed the trip would also yield the surprise of a lifetime!
When we arrived in Venice we were blown away with how surreal it was with only boats and foot traffic and no cars. We pulled up to our canal-front hotel by water taxi and I looked up to see a large balcony overhead with flowers on it. It turned out to be part of our room. With my wife resting on the bed I stepped out onto the balcony to take it all in. Late afternoon sun cast a golden glow as I peered down at the throngs of gondolas and people (it was an Italian Holiday and the city was packed with tourists). Just under our room was one of those arched pedestrian footbridges over the canal and as I stood there a group of folks crowded up onto the bridge and started to sing in Italian. I’m not fluent in Italian but it sounded like a “school” song and when they finished I clapped loudly. A woman who seemed to be the leader smiled and yelled something back to me. I shrugged with my hands that I didn’t understand and she yelled in broken English “you sing now!” Wow…my heart went up into my throat but I thought “I’ll never have this chance ever again” so I thought “what do I know in Italian” and quickly settled on a classical song I had sung recently in church – Gounod’s “Ave Maria”. I simply let it all fly a-cappella at maximum volume…with my wife yelling at me in the background “what are you doing?” Oh my good Lord…I wasn’t prepared for what happened next…hundreds of people went absolutely silent, the Gondola’s and water taxi’s came to a stop…I could hear the waves lapping against the buildings and camera’s clicking. I finished to major applause and shouts and everything started moving once again including my heart which had skipped more than just a few beats. Later the front desk clerks even treated me like some kind of celebrity. I will never, ever forget the feeling of that moment and quite likely my “four minutes of fame”…at least for now. The wonderful surprise of a lifetime!