Back to School


The national flag above the entrance to the middle school evinces about the same degree of enthusiasm as the students passing beneath it. Except that this flag has been this way for years, and it always looks like this, except when it’s not tangled up in itself when it looks even worse. This is an abomination and it beggars belief that nobody either in or out of the school notices, or cares.

Now that my computer is back to work, I can give a late but heartfelt salute to the First Day of School.  Officially it was September 12, but for the zeitgeist it’s been the entire month.

The elementary and middle school classes got a rousing sendoff by the Seniors Club (“Gruppo Anziani”), which organized a ceremony that probably softened the shock of re-entry (or in the case of the smaller children, first entry).  The children not only got applause from the assembled relatives and onlookers, but a gift, which is always a Good Thing, even if it was a Useful Present of school supplies.  Free swag distracts, even if only temporarily, from the realization that your life is no longer your own.

Some of the organizers put up a big poster announcing the Big Send-Off. It reads (translated by me): The Seniors Club and Odeon Club are giving school supplies to the students of the First and Second classes and augur that it may be the start of a long and profitable course of study.” (Smaller posters with the date and time were taped up around the neighborhood.) All this would need in order to sound any better would be a 21-gun salute, but I’m not going to be the one to suggest it.

And children go to school here on Saturday morning, too.  If that sounds painful, just remember how many vacations are strewn throughout the year.  I haven’t counted them, but I have the impression there is some kind of break almost every month.  Christmas!  Epiphany!  Winter holiday (“settimana bianca“) when school groups to go the mountains to ski.  Easter!  National Liberation Day!  And so on.

So the offspring are back under state control for half of each day, and the days are imperceptibly shortening, and the temperature is trying to drop, even if slowly and unwillingly. In a word: Autumn.

Some of the girls are looking pretty effervescent, even if they do have to sherpa backpacks that are bigger and heavier than they are. And that they have to wear the anonymous smock, which is required. Cheaper than a uniform, and nobody seems to mind wearing it down the street in public.

This little boy, though, was not with the program at all. I don’t know what set it off — perhaps the sudden realization that his life was no longer his own.

The troops are lined up and ready for cheers, blessings, applause, and free stuff.


Each bag had a name tag and each child was called by name. The smocks may be anonymous, but the old folks remembered that these were individual people. Probably most of them had known these sprouts since they were born.

And lest the old rumpsprung adults should feel left out, September brings a truckload of learn-this programs and activities. The useless dead vaporetto ticket booth is one of the local billboards, which at the moment are advertising classes in: Indian “Bollywood” dancing; belly-dancing; karate; cutting and sewing; languages (English, Spanish, French, Russian, Chinese, Japanese, American English, American Slang); Zumba; Latin ballroom dances; yoga for children; theatre for children, and so on. It’s the educational version of your New Year’s Resolutions all thrown into a pot and set on fire.

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Categories : Venetian-ness


  1. Mary Ann DeVlieg

    oh, what a lovely post! It really cheered me up, after spending the last 3 hours filling in my Belgian tax declaration, which depends on (and therefore ought to be done before) my Italian tax declaration, which depends on (and therefore ought to be done before) my Belgian tax declaration, which….

    • Erla says:

      Always glad to hear I’ve cheered someone up, especially if I wasn’t even trying. There ought to be an Adult Education class going on somewhere on circumnavigating tax returns. It’s probably stuck on the dead kiosk somewhere.

  2. Carey Oh Blanks
    Twitter: ohsocosie

    Erla, wonderful story about going back to school. We are just having the start of our school holidays here. Just love the photos of Castello.

    • Erla says:

      Thanks for the comment. I presume you mean the start of your school term/season rather than holidays. Or are you hiding somewhere in Italy where it’s already time to take a break?

      • Carey Oh Blanks
        Twitter: ohsocosie

        Nooooo, in Australia we are just starting our October school vacation. Summer is in the air and kids are wearing shorts and Tees!!! Love your work.

  3. Erla….just wanted you to know how much I enjoyed this post!!!!!
    Love your site!!
    thanx so much,

  4. […] old people’s group (literal translation of “gruppo anziani“) organized a wonderful send-off to the littlest scholars to launch them into their first real day of school ever (they will already have had nursery school, […]