Travel to Schengen county with almost expiring passport 5+ months left

edited February 2012 in - Italy
I am flying from US to Italy and returning after 6 days with a stopover 2 hrs in Germany, then back to US. My US passport has 6 months validity minus 1 day from the date of return. Checked with embassies, IATA, https://www.continental.com/web/en-US/apps/travel/passport/default.aspx?camp=virtual_expert, http://www.us-passport-service-guide.com/foreign-entry-requirement.html ; all indicating none to 3 months required left on passport until expiration. I keep seeing online that people should have 6 months. left before travelling. Am I in danger of not being allowed on board with the passport I now have? Should I be worried about an overly ambitious checker? Do specific airlines, like Continental, have their own cutoffs or adhere to a 6 month rule? What exactly is the 6 month rule ? Does it start at beginning to trip or does the 6 months extra go to the departure date?
I’m terrified of giving up my passport at this late date at an agency or expeditor before my flight to renew especially if it’s not really necessary. I hope that “If it’s not broke. Don’t fix it” applies here. It may be impossible for me to get a renewed passport at this late time. Any reassurance or advice would be greatly appreciated.

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