Strangers on a Train

A question that often arises in the travel forums is: “What’s it like to travel in Italy with small kids?”

Speaking from my own experience, it’s great. Italians love kids, and, when you enter a train compartment with a child in Italy, you don’t get the suffering looks that you get when boarding a plane with one in the US. Everyone’s ready to ooh and aah and spoil your child rotten. Well, almost everyone.

When Rossella was three or so, we had occasion to go to Rome by train. We ended up in a compartment with four middle-aged ladies. Three of them were travelling together, and were happy to spend the entire five-hour trip entertaining Ross, who laughed and was charming and sat on their laps.

The fourth lady was travelling alone, and seemed to be allergic to children. She would draw away whenever Ross got near her, and throughout the trip showed clearly, by grimaces and sighs, that sharing a train compartment with a child was akin to being in the seventh circle of hell.

Ross, of course, was not oblivious to this. She tried her best to draw the lady out, with all her most adorable three-year-old wiles. Nothing worked, and Ross was disappointed – she was accustomed to wrapping adults around her little finger.

Towards the end of the trip, Ross looked the lady full in the face and said: “Tu sei brutta. E pure antipatica.” – “You’re ugly, and you’re not nice.”

I made all the polite remonstrances that the occasion demanded, but the other three ladies and I had to avoid looking at each other, so as not to burst out laughing. It was hard to fault Ross, who had spoken the truth as she saw it, with brutal three-year-old candor.

 

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