My brothers and I enrolled into a Beginning Italian class at our local community college yesterday. Today some of our classmates shared with us some stories of their experiences and adventures in Italy.
One guy in particular had a whopper of a story to share.
When this guy was thirteen years old, he and his mother were vacationing in Rome when she wanted to find a shop that sold special trinkets she needed to buy. However, after some time of wandering the streets, they became lost and found themselves in a seedy part of town. Graffiti covered the walls, trash littered the streets, and shady characters were hanging out in alleys around them. It was definitely not a place they would advertise in the tour books. Finally, the mother gave up on finding this shop and they started to walk back the way they came. Her son then noticed that some shifty looking guys were watching them from across the street they were walking down. Suddenly, one of these men ran at them, pulled a knife, grabbed the mom by her wrist, and tried to cut her wristwatch off. Although her son was paralyzed with horror, his mom wasn't your typical damsel in distress.
She punched the mugger in the face, knocking him down on his ass.
Fortunately, the man then ran away with his buddy and the trouble was over. Two elderly men had been watching from a distance, and they applauded the mother and shouted, "bravo! bravo!"
But there's more.
After the attempted mugging, the boy and his mom, who was still flustered from the adrenaline rush, boarded a train to get back to their hotel. But when they got to their seats, a man with a huge nose was sitting there. The mom politely said in Italian, "excuse me, sir, but these are our seats. Could you please move?" The man did not budge. She asked again, but the man still did not move. The mom did not have any more patience. She kicked the man in his shin. He grunted and finally moved over, but then he propped up his feet in the vacated seats. The mom kicked him again, even harder. He removed his legs and they sat. He didn't bother them again for the remainder of the trip.
After this guy told his story, a woman stood and warned us to be careful in the big cities because sometimes pickpockets will be so desperate to snatch your money that they will throw babies at you. The strategy is this: one person poses as a vendor and will try to sell you something as his or her partner stands nearby with a baby in their arms. Once you agree to buy something and pull out your money, their partner will run over and hurl the baby at you. Most people don't want to see a baby crack open all over pavement and will reach out to catch it while the money is still in their hands. Once your arms are full of baby, the thief will grab the money from you and run for it.
If the lady was making this up, then it was an impressive stretch of her imagination. But then again, truth can be stranger than fiction.
Italy is a beautiful country with a rich culture, to be sure, but after hearing stories like this I'm not all that excited to travel abroad anytime soon.