Rome bids slow farewell to sounds of lockdown

Lockdown Rome has been enveloped in a soundtrack that many of us will not notice until it is gone.

As Rome prepares to emerge slowly from its slumber on 4 May, the newly-found sounds of lockdown will be left behind, immersed once more into the humdrum of city life.

Since the capital was plunged into quarantine on 10 March, its residents have come to recognise the familiar sounds of daily life, hitherto unnoticed, suddenly honed by the absence of white noise in which the city is normally cocooned.

In the eerie days before lockdown came into force, and the streets emptied of tourists, we began to hear the splash of the great fountains, even from a distance.

Then came the giddy early stage of balcony singalongs when neighbours first saluted each other timidly from their windows, before singing and clapping together.

As the days dragged on, the streets and suburbs fell into a rhythm of sorts, the silence brightened by an erratic soundtrack of domestic life and birdsong, a curious mix of washing machines and nightingales.

This urban lullaby was punctuated by the chattering and clanking of cutlery twice a day, whole streets eating lunch and dinner, together and alone.

The lady that once would only be seen dressed to the nines now came to the balcony in her dressing gown. The man across the street brushed his teeth leaning out the window and couldn't care less.

We have all heard the sounds of love and war; we have heard too - with a shiver - sirens blaring on traffic-less streets.

We've heard dogs and cats, children and babies, we have heard toasters, televisions, tennis balls on the terrace.

We have awoken to a dawn chorus of birds and those of us lucky enough have drifted to sleep to the distant sound of a piano being played.

As of tomorrow these sounds will become less defined as the wheels of city life begin, slowly, to turn again.

Rome's wild animals will retreat once more and we will greet the tail end of a lost spring with a cautious welcome.

Andy Devane