Max Opens Doors in Kid-Friendly Europe
Forget language courses, cultural awareness training, and gesturing incessantly with your hands. Want to know the real way to make inroads with Europeans while traveling abroad? Bring a baby.
Jerry Soverinsky/AOL Travel
While he can't yet even pick-up a Cheerio, Max has (figuratively) opened countless doors for us during our Italy adventure, drawing people to us in a way that initiates meaningful exchanges.
While researching a hotel property a few days ago, the hotel manager Juan took an immediate liking to Max.
"You know, I have two children at home," he said, escorting me around a 15th century estate that was developed by the Machiavelli family. It was a warm afternoon and he could see that Max's cheeks were flushed.
"Please, I would like you to come back with Max. You spend a day at our pool. I will reserve a gazebo just for you."
He had me at "please." And so we spent today at Villa Mangiacane, an extraordinary, exclusive villa set amidst 600 acres of vineyards and olive groves.
When we arrived, Juan greeted us warmly, escorting us - as promised - to a private gazebo. Within minutes, a man arrived with towels and asked us if we wanted anything to drink. We declined (Max travels with his own liquid stash), but Jana and I discreetly surveyed our surroundings, overwhelmed at the refined elegance of a property whose rooms peak at over $1,500 a night.
As Max was finishing his strained pera (from the picture on the bottle, I'm hoping that means pears) under our gazebo, a man came over with his young daughter.
"Hello, my daughter, she likes babies," he said. "I am Michel, this is Stella."
So began our afternoon relationship with a family from Paris, who was staying at the villa as they traveled through region as hosts of the Melodia del Vino, a classical musical festival celebrating music and wine in the area's finest venues.
Stella (nearly three years old) smiled affectionately at Max, who returned her gesture with nervous laughter while reaching out to touch her nose.
We spent the afternoon swimming in the villa's pool, during which Michel invited us to be his guests at Saturday's performance. While we would have loved to join him, the presentation was too far for us to make the journey in one evening, so we respectfully declined.
So it's a trail of invitations when traveling with Max, generous and sincere overtures that have made our travel experience a very warm and welcome one.
And we owe it all to the bambino.
Keep up with Jerry and the bambino on Twitter.
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