So much for drying laundry when the monsoon hits.

Fat like hail, the deluge drives white moths and butterflies from their grapevine shelters, like geese to the sky with a gunshot. Oppressive heat, chorused by cicadas, is broken into waves of chords, deep and sonorous and unrelenting, like long, slow bow-strokes of an upright bass.

The percussive spatter peppers blows on the glass until I wonder if the windows will crack. The hasp slips –they blow open– and our conductor, Mother Nature, crashes into the Sala Grande with a cyclone of spray behind her, like Venus on the half shell.

As her tempest strikes, a vaporous relief rises out from the stones — a summertime ghost in search of its bones. From the aroma of warm, wet wood, throaty and rich, emerges a staccato beat as trees drip, drip, drip. The hum of hungry mosquitoes sounds a threatening refrain as Nature unleashes a wind-whipping fury on Civita again.

Thirsty leaves yawn to slurp draughts of rain as the hanging laundry sags on the line, like tired old men in worn undershirts. Their shoulders slumping, they’ve given up, sinking closer to the mud without a care. Piano, piano, they release lower still, an orchestra of precariously white sheets in a garden pit of potential ruin.

Across the way, Ludvi brays from Alessandra’s balcony; the rain has rudely ended his game. Downstairs, white-haired Maria, forced to abandon her stoop, has shuffled inside —piano, piano— her swollen cankles complaining. In a blue smock dress and orthopedic shoes, she sits immediately inside her door, keenly anticipating the moment she can retire outside again, like a triangle player awaiting her only cue.

The wet respite calls the garden turtles to play, slipping deliciously on cool mud and stone while the cats’ plans are utterly foiled. Sopranos Massimo and Nerone mewl and complain as they’re forced to decamp, driven from bowers of flowers and insulted by damp. Dressed in his tuxedo, Figaro follows them inside, shaking the wetness from his paws in the frantic strokes of a fiddle.


Piano, piano… The beat turns to tiny tapping, like a drumstick gently on cymbals, and begins to abate. The air lightens, as if Mother Nature has drawn in a breath, and with it, the rank humidity. She taps her baton to call the attention of her players: sun, wind, clouds and rain. A game of musical chairs, they exchange seats, finding there’s not room for everyone.

The melody of a calm breeze sweetly coaxes the leaves to flutter and dance, then piano, piano, the droplets slow.

And then –silence– they’re gone.