Back to School - Italian Style

18th September 2009
Livorno's School Children Broken in Gently after a Three Month Summer Holiday

Last Monday school children in Livorno (and most of Italy) went back to their classrooms after a break of more than three months. It was a particularly painful return to school due to a drastic change in the weather, the hot summer temperatures we had enjoyed here in Livorno up to Sunday turning overnight into torrential rain and thunderstorms, with the thermometer plummeting by more than 10°C! It was a fitting start to a new school year.

Going back to school in Italy hits hard. For the first week most of us, parents and students alike, wander around suffering from a kind of ‘rientro’ shell-shock.

It’s not just the having to get up early again, the organisation of school bags and the right equipment, or even the challenge of a new school. What is most frustrating is the fact that the first week back at school never runs to full schedule:  if you’re starting a new school, whether at primary, middle or senior level, you will be broken in gradually, starting on just a couple of hours and slowly building up to a full school week.
There is a ‘provisional’ timetable for everyone, later replaced with the ‘definitivo’ version when the teachers have worked it all out; and school meal services are always delayed by at least a week, causing further alterations to normal classroom hours.

At Italian primary schools, at the end of the first day back, kids come home with a list of exercise books and equipment they are required to purchase, ideally for the next day, and so you head off to join one of the massive queues with all the other primary school children parents in one of the town’s stationary suppliers. 

A few days later your children bring you the ‘cedolina’ – a slip of paper entitling you to pick up the set texts they  are going to use in class from the bookshop where you ordered them (if you remembered), during the holidays. Still more queuing. I have never understood why the schools can’t order the books directly from the publishers!

I’m really glad that school has started. There is a better routine and sense of purpose to our lives. But I’m glad too that the first week is over, and I’m looking forward to the more settled second week of the term (and to a welcome lie-in on Sunday!).