Saturday, July 28, 2007

Piece 2

My local square was ”Piazza S.S. Annunziata”, the ”S.S.” stands for ”Santissima” (meaning ”very holy”). Unfortunately I never had the chance to find out why this was so, but perhaps it is because it is one of the most beautiful squares in Florence - if not the most beautiful at all. It is perfectly squared and it has, on the northern side, the facade of the church from where the name originates from. At the center of the southern side starts Via dei Servi with the fantastic backdrop of the Cathedral and its Cupola. The other two sides are nearly perfectly symmetrical. Both of them have a flight of steps more or less as long as the sides themself, and on them rise the delicate arcades of two porticos. The one on the left, looking at the church, was built by Antonio Sangallo the Older and Baccio d'Agnolo in 1525 and is an imitation of the opposite one. The original one is on the right side and is known as one of Filippo Brunelleschi masterpieces who built it around 1426. On this arcade, the plumes between the arches, are decorated with the famous ”Putti in fasce” (bandaged babies), eight round and glazed ceramics by Andrea della Robbia. These ”Putti” have not only a decorative function, but also a very specific meaning, because here had and still have residence the ”Spedale degli Innocenti” (the Hospital of the Innocents) - the first orphanage in Europe. But it is time to get back to myself and to those years in Florence where the trams were still driving in the streets.

In the immediate post-war years the kindergartens and the nursery schools didn't exist, and if they did, they were privately owned with extensive costs involved, also to my family. But the situation must have been the same in all Italy since the acceptance age to the elementary school was rather precocious. In short, it was done to relieve the burden on the families. The undersigned has begun his scholastic career at the age of 5 years 6 months and 4 days. The schools started on September 15, which is why you now have the opportunity to, at least, work out the day I was born.

My school was called the ”Regia Scuola Elementare Luigi Alamanni” just as it was written over the main entrance. The word ”Regia” (Royal) was removed after the 2nd of June of the following year of my scholastic debut, when, with a popular referendum, the Italians chose to become a Republic, but it remained readable for quite a long time after that. Shit! This piece of information has spoiled it all, because now you can calculate my exact age.

Our school uniforms consisted of a black overall and a blue bowtie, which I, perhaps because of an early recognition of ridicule, absolutely hated. The blue bowtie distinguished us boys from the girls, who wore a pink one instead. The classes were strictly mono-sex, meaning no mixed classes existed at all. Not only did the girls side of the school have another name, ”Adelaide Cairoli”, they also had a separate entrance. Their classes were located on the first floor of the school, while we boys were crammed on the ground floor.

Next to this kind of scholastic sexual discrimination, the families weren't much better. The girls were not permitted to play with us in the square, because according to the parents, it would have been unseemly. I have a sister, Oretta is her name, and i will write about her in one of my future piece. She is 13 years younger then me and she is born with the Downs syndrome, commonly known as Mongolism. Now she is an old girl of over 50 years. Returning to my school days, I must add that this complete lack of contacts with the other sex, or even acquaintance, has partly been the reason for my shyness towards girls in many years of my post-puberty. Fortunately, after some time, things changed.

The method of teaching, just after the war, didn't yet have the possibility to be renewed nor did the text books and the mentality of some of the teachers were still permeated with fascist ideology. ”La bandiera dai tre colori é sempre stata la piú bella” (The flag with the three colors has always been the most beautiful) and ”l' Inno di Mameli” (the Italian National Anthem) were the two songs that we were singing every day alternately. None of us understood the meaning, because nobody took the trouble to explain it to us. For example, we sang one of the national anthem verse ”dell'elmo di Scipio s'é cinta la testa” (she (Italy) has put on her head the Scipione's helmet), as monkeys or as those who went to hear the Mess in Latin. They (and we) knew everything by heart, it was as clear as mud for them (and for us), but they were convinced that if they didn't leave out a single comma, they would surely have gained, if not the heaven, then at least the purgatory.

We learned to read on the stories of the Risorgimento and the 1st World War heros, those of the 2nd World War where not in the program probably because it wasn't clear yet who was a left-wing hero and who a right one. The fact is that at seven years old, or thereabouts, we knew everything about how Pietro Micca blew up and how Nazario Sauro and Cesare Battisti was hanged. Very edifying, isn't it?

End of Piece 2