Travel Tuesdays: Take the City Bus, Not the Tour Bus

When our son was two and a half, we took a family trip to a village outside of Florence, Italy. Instead of renting a car, each day we walked to a local bus stop and took a bus to the market or into Florence.

Taken from my journal:
Our son (name left out for privacy) was excited to take his first bus ride and we loved interacting with the locals. One morning, a nice, older couple boarded the bus and immediately began smiling at our son and talking to him in Italian. The woman motioned to ask if she could see his Pinocchio. Our son handed it to her. She smiled, pretended to make Pinocchio walk on her leg, then gave him back to our son. Then she asked to see his Tony the Tiger and was surprised he shared it, too. She called him "generous." She smiled, pointed at Pinocchio and said, "beautiful." Then she pointed at Tony and made a face to indicate he's not. (Note: Pinocchio is an Italian character).

Then she asked our son's name.
We told her and she got excited. Then she asked for his name in English. (He has a very Italian name). When we repeated his name she got really animated. (I guess she thought we had translated it to an Italian name for her benefit). She talked animatedly with her husband for a few minutes before turning to us again. She spoke limited English, so we varied between the little English she knew, the little Italian we knew, and a variety of gestures and facial expressions.

Essentially, this was the conversation:


Woman: Why (his Italian name) for an American?
Rick (my husband): Mi Italiano-Americano.
The woman turned to her husband and told him Rick is Italian. "Italiano! Italiano!"
Woman: Grandmother? Grandfather?
Rick: Grandmother, Napolitano (from Naples). Grandfather, Siciliano (from Sicily).
The woman smiled and clapped as she repeated it for the whole bus in Italian.
More people joined in.
A woman leaned in from behind me, waved her arms in the air and said, "Mi Siciliano!" and tapped her chest with both hands.
Arms waved as the story was repeated toward the back of the bus.
I looked up the word for "surname" then told them ours is Cusolito. The Sicilian woman smiled and gestured happily. By now, everyone around us was smiling.

It was such a wonderful conversation. They didn't care that Rick didn't speak Italian. To them, Rick is Italian.They were just as thrilled to talk to us as we were to talk to them.

We felt so welcomed by that friendly bunch of strangers.

For me, this story perfectly demonstrates why we don't take tour buses. What we experienced on that day was far more interesting and exciting than pressing our noses up to a window to see what a guide determined we should see.

How about you...Have you ever taken the local bus, tuk-tuk, jeepney, etc. in a foreign country? How was it for you?


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