The Italian Almanac

angels in Rome

Ask the Angels

Rome has set up a fleet of chariot-riding 'angels' to fly to the rescue of tourists. The 16 young men and women are stationed at various points in the city centre, Termini Station and Fiumicino Airport. Sporting jackets saying Ask Me, they are ready to whisk into action on their modified segways, shaped to evoke the chariots of Ancient Rome and clad in the city's emblematic colours, red and yellow.

''The tourists seem to be very happy with this new service,'' said Simona, an 'angel' working at Fiumicino. ''The most frequent questions we get here are about taxi fares, other ways to get to the centre, and the top things to see''. A young English tourist just off the plane, Michael, described the Rome city council scheme as ''excellent''. ''Being able to get updated information on everything you can do in the city is great''.

The recruits had to take a special course to use their chariots, which have a top speed of 6 km/h. ''It's not hard once you get used to it. All you need is a bit of balance,'' Simona said. The 16 are fluent in six languages: English, French, Spanish, German, Chinese and Japanese. If the scheme proves a hit at the end of its trial run on January 8, Rome Tourism Councillor Mauro Cutrufo said, the angels' fleet will be expanded.

City Mayor Gianni Alemanno had a go on one of the new chariots and said: ''It's a fun, friendly way to get information to tourists''.