Rome may be eternal, but the Rome that even I once knew, twenty years ago, no longer exists. As in America, everything in Italy seems to be produced and consumed in volumes that mathematically explain the death of something that there used to be, called slow time. In the Hudson River town where I grew up, woodland and farms have been replaced by complexes of condominiums. In Rome, sheep are no longer driven through the center of the city in flocks directed by shepherds with floppy hats and crooks. My wife and I climbed Mount Aetna in a storm, and when we took refuge in an alpine hut (now destroyed by a new eruption), we discovered a group of mountain guides hypnotized in the semi-darkness by a festival of Woody the Woodpecker cartoons on a generator-powered color television set.

You have probably read ten thousand essays that decry the modern world. You have seen ten thousand shapeless and...


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