It’s midnight in an apartment we have rented for the week in the very heart of Rome, and it is quiet. Not a sound. Maybe this is one reason why the Romans say it’s “crazy great” to be a Roman. My sleep in Hoboken is disrupted by sounds from police cars, traffic sounds, and partiers.
Rome is the city where I have sensed most fully the ancient ways. There are cities like Ephesus where one can walk down the reconstructed city streets of an ancient city, but those are archaeological sites.
Rome’s streets are narrow, cobblestoned, with multi-story buildings closing them in. The houses were erected upon some logic that no longer exists – no orderly development for them. Though my windows are only steps away from the neighboring houses, nobody can see me because the angles are staggered. It is as if each house was put up without regard to the houses around it – or perhaps the staggering was on purpose. Modern housing projects, with their orderly squareness, invite peeks into neighbors’ lives.
The Romans don’t have all that many dogs, at least not around here. There is no place for them to pee, etc. The pedestrian traffic is so persistent, and weaves so unpredictably among the moving vehicles and parked cars, that managing a pooping pooch would be dicey. So there are no dogs barking at night. Every once in a while a disembodied voice will say something near enough to a window to have the sound float in our window, but it is like a cloud sighing.
During the day, the clattering of dishes and the hammering of carpenters is loud and intrusive, and fortunately we did not live near any quarreling couples, but at night the center of Rome is as still as the middle of a remote lake at midnight.