Thursday, May 31, 2007

ancient history and cheese pizza...

I only had three bucks left. After a 14 hour train ride followed by a 4-day jaunt around Italy's capital, I was down to my last American dollars. The train back to Vienna didn't leave for another seven hours, and I was stuck my with two girlfriends, a backpack, and no money (this was before ATM's.)

We decided to wait out our final hours in Rome on the steps of the famed Colosseum, where we hoped to find some cheap food and cheap entertainment by doing some quality people and pigeon watching.

The tourists were thick and the pigeons were thicker; the tourists were flocking to vendors selling paintings and other "Colosseum" riff-raff, and the pigeons were flocking to tourists leaving behind crumbs from baguette sandwiches at outdoor cafe tables.

We sat watching the collage of events unfold as the crowds grew through the afternoon. Kids were enjoying gelato, families found picnic spots, and old men sat on park benches feeding the passing birds. All this eating made our mouths water...and we realized we were starving. But what were poor girls to do?

Choosing our prey wisely, we sweet-talked one of the food vendors who graced the plaza into three hearty slices of pizza. His Italian hospitality gave us a slice each, along with a coke AND an apple for road. And our American ideals took them without reservation...:)...but we did give him all the Lira we had...which to my recollection, wasn't enough to pay for our delicious dinner. But genuine smiles and pouty lips do wonders for half-starved American girls begging for food.

I had a greasy, cheesy slice that spilled over my paper plate and I was ready to eat it. The three of us walked rather awkwardly, toting our large packs on our backs, our pizza, drink and apple nestled in and under arms. We found an open spot in the sun on the main gate steps of the Colosseum, sans pigeons, and prepared to enjoy our last meal for the next 14 hours. I tried to carefully place my coke on the ground (note my pack was heavy and nearly knocked me over every time I bent forward) before I took my pack off.

But carefully didn't work for me that day. When I leaned forward, my plate tilted as well, and in slow motion... while time stopped and the plaza sat still, my pizza followed the force of gravity and landed, cheese side down, on the steps of the ancient building.

I know I screamed. I KNOW I cried. And I knew I had no choice but to pick up the pizza from the grime and dirt of thousands of gladiators, and animals, and Romans, and tourists and eat it with a smile. It was delicious.