Tuesday, 9 September 2014


Mothers throughout Italy are rejoicing today as the interminable school summer holidays, 3 months long, finally draw to a close.
The shops have been full of school merchandise for weeks – rucksacks, exercise books, pencil cases, bright pink Princess, Winx and Hello Kitty designs for the girls and the latest blue Super-heroes for the boys. It is big business and costs, but not nearly as much as the school text books, which from Middle school (aged 11 upwards) have to be purchased by the parents. These have a tendency to be changed yearly so that the second-hand market is virtually non-existent and elder siblings can’t pass theirs on. We are looking at an annual cost of at the very least 300 euros, considerably more at the secondary schools.
However we save on uniforms - there are none as such here. The nursery and primary school children wear “grembiuli”, school smocks or overalls, generally white for the girls and blue for the boys (as if little girls don’t get dirty too…). The older children wear their own clothes which is fine until they create their own uniforms according to the fashion trend of the moment. We had the bare-midriff period of the girls (yes even at school..), regardless of how many spare tyres they were sporting, and the ridiculously extra low-hung, baggy trousers of the boys, exposing a far too generous expanse of fake Calvin Klein underpants.
When my boys were school-age, the school was just down the road from where we lived. It was a large, ugly modern building, purpose built, that now stands empty. Most village schools have been shut down over the past few years, not enough children to justify the costs.
Even 30 years ago, my eldest was in a class of just 4 children. When there was an outbreak of mumps, he was the only one who didn’t fall ill. The teacher decided to solve the problem by taking him with her to the houses of the 4 convalescents, an hour per child per day. Poor Luca got the short straw, having to do the full round.  We hoped he would get mumps too. He didn’t.