milan and tokyo

Visiting Milan for the first time earlier this year, I noticed how quiet it was. Not quiet as in dead and lifeless; but quiet as in not emotionally or psychologically taxing, despite being a bustling urban centre.

The only other large city that surprised me with the same sense of palpable groundedness and intrinsic calm was Tokyo.

People did't project their voices. They spoke quietly instead of yelling at each other; even in busy markets and public squares.

Most places did't play music. If they did, the volume was turned down low so as not impede quiet conversation.

Drivers honked at intersections of course (in Milan at least.) But there was no sense of horns being used as a psychotherapy device. In fact the only clearly distinctive traffic sound was that of sirens.

Elevators didn't talk nor pinged, and crosswalks generally didn't chirp or rattle. When they did, the volume was set very low.

The same softly approach was taken with lighting too. Interiors were comfortably, functionally lit with considered subtlety. Street lighting erred on the dark rather than the blinding side.

Quiet cities seemed confidently rooted in their places in history. They know who they are and are free to just be that.

Standing in stark contrast were Sydney and Singapore. These cities are noisy, self-conscious, and attention-seeking brats in comparison.

Images of Milan and Tokyo courtesy Shutterstock.