This is a story that I heard from my father about a trip he made as a young college student. He was on a solo trip in Italy visiting many historical sites across the country when this incident took place.

It was another exciting day in Rome immersed in the traces of ancient Romans’ lives. What thoughts were occupying this young man’s mind I don’t know when he was walking down the famous Baths of Caracalla. But what I do know is that he was walking down the street alone and two women approached him with a paper sign. And while he was trying to read what was written on the paper, these women skillfully robbed him of his wallet.

In the matter of seconds, the young foreign tourist was left without money and his passport.

Disheartened, he went to the Embassy to make a request to reissue his passport. It was going to take a week before he could receive his new passport. What saved him in this misfortune was the little pocket money he had and his European Rail Pass.

For the next several days, the young man slept on the trains and in the morning took breakfast at a coffee stand near the Rome Central Station. In the evening, he would go to the same restaurant to eat supper.

Since his budget was extremely tight, he would always order the most basic tomato pasta from the menu. In Italy, Pasta is merely the opening of a proper meal. Yet, for this young traveller, it was his main dish of the day that filled his stomach and gave comfort.

It was quite a bit of hustle even to order this pasta since he didn’t speak the local language. But after a few nights, the person behind the counter remembered his face, and he would grin upon seeing the familiar young foreign traveller at his door. Then without waiting for a word, he would ask the traveller a one-word question. “Pasta?” This became a ritual between the two until when his passport was finally ready for pick-up.

My father looks bittersweet whenever he speaks of his time in Rome. But there is always a spark of humour to be found in his eyes when he recounts his interaction with the person at this Italian restaurant.