'Ciao Melania!' First Lady Gets Warm Welcome from Young Patients in Rome

First Lady Melania Trump seemed to enjoy her visit of the Bambino Gesù pediatric hospital in Rome on Wednesday, spending time chatting, playing and taking selfies with the hospital’s young patients.

Trump met young patients from nine different countries—including  Iraq and Nepal—who were among the roughly 600 patients the hospital can accommodate. The first pediatric hospital in Italy, the facility is now run by the Catholic Church but provides completely free health care, as well as housing around 3,500 families. It’s also the largest pediatric research center in Europe.

The children broke the ice by greeting the First Lady in unison with a “Ciao Melania!” Without missing a beat, Trump replied in Italian, a language she picked up while working as a model in Milan in her youth. The First Lady had barely entered the room before she received her first selfie request.

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In Focus

First Lady Melania Trump Plays with Children in Rome

The First Lady had barely stepped into the library before she got her first selfie request.
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“People love you” said the hospital president Mariella Enoc, remarking on the warm welcome. The hospital staff witnessed a First Lady who was respectful and engaging with the children. A former design student, Trump showed off her artistic skills by drawing flowers for the children and received a number of drawings in return, including one reading “All children are the same,” and even some kisses.

To some of the most veteran hospital staff, Trump’s behavior reminded them of Lady Diana, who too had visited the facility in 1985. The affectionate welcome even wore off on the security detail who, nervous at first at the presence of so many people, eventually relaxed.

“We were happy to represent a way of operating within the Catholic Church that is close to Pope Francis, showing the reality of a Church that takes care and welcomes the most vulnerable children with serious and rare diseases, from all over the world,” Enoc said after the visit.

Trump arrived at the hospital after meeting Pope Francis at the Vatican in the morning, and visiting the Sistine Chapel with her husband. President Trump held a private audience with the Pontiff, at the end of which the two exchanged gifts. Among these were books by Martin Luther King for the pope, and the pope’s latest encyclical Laudato Si’, which deals with taking care of the environment, for POTUS. Climate change is one of a number of issues in which the president and the pontiff do not see eye to eye, but at the end of his audience with the pope, Trump said: “I won’t forget what you said.”

After the meeting, the Trump family headed in different directions. The president proceeded to meet Italian President Sergio Mattarella and prime minister Paolo Gentiloni. His daughter Ivanka Trump instead went to the Community of Sant’Egidio to meet with female survivors of human trafficking.

She wrote on Facebook that the visit was inspiring: “Hearing directly from the advocates, counselors and victims reaffirms that we must work together to address this critical issue.”

The Trump family left Italy and headed to Belgium in the afternoon, but theirs is a brief arrivederci. The president is attending a NATO leaders meeting in Brussels on Thursday before returning to Italy for the G7 Summit starting on Friday in Taormina, Sicily.