by Bonnie Smetts
At what age do you become a senior citizen in Italy?

My first days in Rome I kept up an ambitious program of seeing museums and churches that I’ve always wanted, but never managed, to see. Each rainy day I went some place. It was a great way for me to learn to get around and to satisfy my hunger to see it all.

My first stop was the Campidoglio and its two museums. At the ticket counter, I asked for my ticket in Italian. The sign said 10 euro for the two museums. When I got back 1.50 euro in change, I asked again if I was going to see both museums. The ticket taker assured me I had a ticket for the two museums. Then she said, “Ridotto.” I know what means. Reduced.

A cold shock came over me. Ridotto. She thought I was a senior and in Italy, seniors are 65.

Dressed the way I was, like a snowman in a black coat, I could accept a few years error either way. But 65! I will proudly be 65 someday, but not yet. I like to think of myself as having just waltzed in to my 50s.

I was so depressed. The museum took my mind off my aging body but on the tram ride home, I was desolate. Sixty-five years old. Starting the next day, even though the temperature was near freezing and it was raining, I stopped wearing my hat. Maybe it was my hat that made me look older.

The ridotto thing happened a few more times despite my leaving my hat at home. Sometime during the end of the first week, I was reading my Italian travel guide in the section about tickets. There it was: EU members receive the ridotto throughout Italy.

Che gioa! Che gioa! I jumped for joy. They don’t think I’m 65, they think I’m EU.

The next day at the Borghese Museum, I asked for my ticket in Italian. The woman looked at me and said, “Francese?” I hesitated a micro-second, and then she offered, “Inglese?” Yes, Inglese. Sure, I’ll be English.

As the days went on, I discovered that you have to show your passport to get the ridotto at the bigger venues. Still, I’m happy. I’m wearing my hat again. I need it.

Bonnie Smetts is a San Francisco Bay Area art director and writer who divides her time between a house at the ocean and an apartment dangerously close to an international airport. Currently she is on an extended stay in Rome.

About Editors’ Choice:
Every week we choose one of the great stories we’ve received from travelers around the world and present it here as our “Editors’ Choice.” For more about the editors, see About Travelers’ Tales Staff.