Rome Fiumicino Airport, February 5, 8am. I’m actually here. Through customs quickly, I scan the arrival hall hopefully for a place to perform the Ritual.
I’m going to need a few things before I can carry out the Ritual, such as a place to sit, a clear view of the arrival hall and coffee. Good coffee. I might need a croissant as well.
This is my first time in Rome, so it’s important to get this right. Anticipating a lap of the terminal to find a suitable location, I’m pleased to spot a coffee bar on my left. I can tell it’s perfect.
On approach, I see as well as hear, a small, excited crowd around the espresso counter. My pace quickens.
After paying at the till, I realise I need to take my receipt to the other side of the counter. A beautifully tanned woman with Sophia Loren eyes and Fidel Castro cap takes my receipt. She scans it briskly and hands me a croissant wrapped at one end in a slip of paper. The absence of a plate or bag surprises me, until I see the people around me eating pastries and drinking espresso while they stand.
As Sophia makes my cappuccino, I can’t resist joining in the fun by taking a bite of my croissant – when in Rome! Another surprise…thick, strawberry jam oozes onto my tongue (I was to learn later I had just tasted my first cornetto, the Italian relative of the croissant).
Now equipped with coffee, and half-eaten cornetto, all I need is a place to sit. With a clear view of the arrival hall, remember? Hmmm… there, by the windows, a row of high tables with bar chairs. Ideal. At last I’m ready. It’s time to perform the Ritual.