Silence is a morning that begins with fog — soon-to-be prisoner clouds born on the ground and sentenced to hover over Civita all day, swirling and churning, but never dismissed.

Silence is air fully pregnant with humidity, the kind that blends with perspiration to create something salty, dewy and delicious at the nape of one’s neck, tempting someone else to lick it.

Silence is block after block of wooden doors closed tight, locked by an invisible person who is neither there, nor wishes you to be.

Silence is perching like a gargoyle, awaiting the approach of strangers, hearing the scuff and shuffle of their unsuspecting feet, the carefree exclamations of “Que bella!“, the electronic click of cameras, and a thunderous herd of children pushing, crying, teasing, and laughing — until they turn the corner to enter the courtyard and freeze at the sight of you sitting there, unblinking.

Silence is stones layered with lichens so ancient that their dust has turned into a quilt of off-white stains branded into the tufa, inseparable.

Silence is the sound of a pouncing tabby scaling a wall –normally an elegant pitter-pat– but now, a weighted and unchoreographed thud.

Silence is the thin smell of dry, old leaves gathered in corners, the drifting scent of a cigarette, and the aroma of wet, loamy earth mixed with the smell of fire baking bread for tourists who aren’t there.

Silence is the slapping film reel sound of a moth’s frantic wings on geranium leaves.

Silence is a circumspect man who never reveals his secrets –if he has any– but only plods forward wordlessly, step by step, piano piano, to sit on that hard stone bench and stare right back at you.

Silence is the clang of a sheet of milky lantern glass against its rusted frame in time with the pulse of the breeze.

Silence is the unyielding stone benches and steps, ever-hard and uncomfortable, no proper backrest, no proper angle, no ergonomic height — which gives a sense of how hard life must have been if such hard things were ever considered restful reprieves.

Silence is the clapping of leaves against each other in the breeze, rushing back and forth like waves breaking rhythmically on the shore.

Silence is hundreds of eyes staring out from the darkness as spiders diligently string their webs in the frames of rotted cellar doors where no human has stepped for years.

Silence is the moment you realize that you’re either grateful for interruption when it arrives, or deeply annoyed when you’ve lost it.

Silence is a question, a sense of upcoming change –the quiet before the storm, the bended knee, the transition of seasons– the anticipation of an offer that has not yet arrived, one that you’re unsure you’ll accept.

Until it isn’t, silence is.