Unless, of course, they are running after me!
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Guess he was on his smoko break, or not?
I have flown all over the world with a tripod as carry on, alone, on the outside of a bag, and inside a backpack. Never had an issue, well once in Japan they measured it but it was well under the regulation 100cm in length. That includes into and out of the USA, where TSA are prone to overreach at any opportunity. I think you might have just got an over enthusiastic agent, how did you get the tripod to Italy?
I prefer going to Italian restaurant on foot directly to Italy. Takes me 5 min just over the border.