Another late blogpost. August in Italy is a timeless muddle of days in normal circumstances, in the middle of a global pandemic it’s magnified. I make no excuses for momentarily falling out of kilter, after all it’ll be September before too long, when with pencils sharpened and uniform ironed I shall return to some sort of rhythm in this strangely arrhythmic year. A list of new online talks is now up on my website, and I look forward to seeing many familiar faces, as well as some new ones (which has a distinct “back-to-school” tone to it).

Following our foray to the Deep South for Ferragosto in past week’s post, we came back to Rome in time for a day of “in-person” tours (which we used just to call “tours”) I had with two sets of clients. Amongst other things, I showed them both round the Colosseum.

I talked about lions and tigers and bears (oh my!) with children in the morning, and construction techniques and crowd control logistics (plus lions, of course) with adults in the slanting evening light.

We had it almost to ourselves both times (though owing to Covid restrictions on numbers the obligatory reservations were sold out all day). This was both magical and eerie, as so much of 2020 seems to be. If one is lucky enough to have avoided the dark sharp edge of Covid, and the worst of its economic and political fallout so far, much of this year has had an unsettling otherness. It is imbued with the ungraspable slipperiness of a dream; a lurking and vague sense of menace hovering in the background.

Rome is pretty quiet, with definite Caro Diario vibes (if you haven’t seen it, do!). It is all somnolence and tumbleweed: the thick air is heavy with heat, and rich with the languid melancholy of the dog days of summer.

The emptiness of the streets of the inner suburbs as I ran errands this morning felt different to the usual August calm as everyone decamps to the beach.

The curves of the Facist-era post office at Palazzo Bologna unimpeded by traffic. 21 August 2020

This spring we had two months of Ferragosto-empty streets where trees blossomed with no-one to see, and parks were left to their own devices behind chained gates. So this August feels a little different, the novelty of an empty city has worn thin, and the dusty Gattopardian melancholy of faded grandeur feels less poetic than concerning on deserted streets in a city in which over eighty percent of hotels remain closed.