17. Bring baby
Kidnapping is still illegal in most sectors of the world, so in planning your trip to Italy it is highly recommended that you get pregnant a year and a half in advance so that you can bring a small child with you. If you lose your wallet, passport and credit cards but still have an infant or toddler you are good to go. As the Good Book says, “…and a child shall lead them…straight into the Uffizi”. (Actually, just before we arrived here, a racket was broken up by the cops just around the corner from the Uffizi where small children were being rented out by the hour to tourists wishing to avoid standing in line for six hours waiting to look at some pictures by Botticelli.)
I first encountered this some years ago when my nephew, Theo, was still small enough to fit into one of those baby backpack thingys. The Medici Chapel is one of the most stunning structures in Florence and that is saying a lot in a town where my bathroom here is nicer than the brand new reading room at the public library back home. The Chapel is a hugely popular tourist attraction but my sister would not consider turning back when I pointed out to her that the line stretched out the door and halfway to Sienna. With Theo riding shotgun, the waters parted, the Red Sea of tourists drew back, and on we marched to the Promised Land.
My astonishment did not stop there. The guards inside were mostly Italian women of the Grandmother (or “Nona”) variety. One look at Theo and they dropped that severe scowl of Dracula’s Mother-In-Law that won them the job in the first place and became soft dripping mounds of tapioca pudding. I would be remiss in my duties as a doting uncle not to mention that Theo circa 1997 was extraordinarily cute when he was not howling his fool head off. Although he was on his best behavior that day (Judy had made sure to give him a double dose of soporific mother’s milk before we hit the street), even if he had been yelling his fool head off these old nonas would still have melted. Not only was he a toddler, but, he was also blonde, and he was a boy. My sister explained that this trifecta combination put Theo a furlong ahead in the cuteness derby. Have you ever seen a brick shaped elderly woman take a child’s hand and rub it up and down her whiskered cheek like a mini-mop murmuring, “Bello, bello, bellisimo.”? I have, friends, and let me tell you it is not a pretty sight. To this day, I believe that if Judy had not kindly, yet firmly wrested Theo’s sweet, pudgy hand away, that old bat would have chomped off each of his delectable little fingers one-by-one.