It’s Rome. It’s Easter. It’s 2010. We had had a busy day sightseeing, tramping well-worn thoroughfares in the wake of millennia before us; it was beginning to get dark; starting to drizzle; and we were both tired and hungry. Pleasantly tired and hungry, but still tired and hungry.
Nevertheless, a large crowd assembling in the streets outside the Colosseum was a reason to pause and reassess and, almost before I realised what was happening, we found ourselves at the forefront of the gathering throng. It is something that I have experienced before with crowds in Italy––be it queueing for tickets for the Circumvesuviana, or gate-crashing Easter mass in the Pantheon––that for all their noise and enthusiasm, they are surprisingly porous.
The Colosseum was illuminated, as is typical in the evening but, at one point, high up in the structure, a small stage had been specially erected, for what was evidently the focal point of the evening’s events. Who were we all waiting for? Was it a live, al fresco performance of opera? Or an appearance by a famous film star?
For the first time, I began to notice that lots of the people in the crowd surrounding me were carrying placards. In fact, suddenly, the gathering looked rather more like a demonstration than a fun get-together. Most of the placards carried pictures of Pope John Paul II, and text, which my Italian was not good enough to understand. From the little that I could gather, it appeared that Pope Benedict XVI was due to make an appearance, but he was running slightly late.
Wait for the Pope, or go for a pizza? That was the dilemma. Pope or pizza?
On the one hand, we had never seen the Pope before. On the other, we had just passed an inviting, brightly-lit trattoria, which looked warm and snug. Our decision came in unison:
And regarding missing the Pope? My partner expressed it best:
“After all, it’s not even as though it’s the good one.”
A sentiment, which appeared to be the belief of the entire crowd.
© E. C. Glendenny
E. C. Glendenny: je ne regrette rien.
Check out some of E. C. Glendenny’s other travel writing about Italy in Easy Pickings: Selected Travel Writing, available from Amazon.