Flood in '66.
Junior and 'medium' years
I did my first grade and part of the second one in an English private school, run by a Miss Berbridge (I don't know if the
spelling is correct): it was located in Piazza Savonarola, at the corner with Via dei Della Robbia, where there is now the Syracuse
University. A beautiful building, easily distinguishable.
I don't remember, alas!, even a single name of my classmates. The classroom was on the ground floor and outside there was a small playground for recreation. I believe there were about fifteen children in all. There I learned to read and write in English.
When the second grade began, the class was held in what I think was a living room (we were only 4 or 5 children), at the beginning of via dei Della Robbia, practically adjacent to the previously mentionend premises. We were not seated in school desks, but around a normal home table. I remember many dictations and some traces remain in exercise books still in my possession.
This experience, however, did not last long. Before the end of the school year my parents decided to move me to an Italian school and
chose the "Alla Querce" College, in via della Piazzola.
I can't say that it was a trauma for me, but the contrast certainly struck me: no longer a room in a house, but a real classroom, with desks, a blackboard, many other children and a nice elderly lady dressed in a black apron: the teacher (Miss Elisabetta Francini). I also had to wear a school apron, black with a white collar, like the other students. I remember my first entrance in the classroom as if it were now, also because the feeling of having arrived 'late' (not at the beginning of the year) and of having lost what others had already done and leart, has always followed me since that day.
Then there was the enormous (for me) size of the school: starting from the entrance, where the nice porter Oreste was always at his counter. From the entrance a great staircase led to the church, on the left, to offices and other corridors on the right, and in front of it another staircase that led up to two floors of classrooms: elementary, middle and high school.
The whole complex was a labyrinth of corridors, which I had the opportunity to explore in the following years. There was also a theater, occasionally also used as a cinema, where the end-of-year awards were held, with an essay by pupils chosen for this purpose, and small theatrical performances by children on particular occasions.
On one of the upper floors, there was a museum: some rooms with stuffed animals and ancient tools. I remember in particular some "Volta's batteries", used to demonstrate the first studies on electricity. I remember that wandering around those environments put me a bit of awe. If I remember correctly, there was also an old skeleton, for the study of anatomy. Who knows where all this ended when the institute was closed for good, years ago.
School publication "La Querce"
After passing the exams of the 5th grade, I passed to the 1st class of the 'medium' school. No longer a single teacher, but several,
the main one being Prof. Giuseppe Mora (Italian language). Since I was already quite fluent in English, I chose to take
French lessons. During the three years of 'middle' school, I joined the Scout department, within the institute itself, and led by
Prof. Giorgio Pratesi, a teacher who devoted a lot of energy to boosting and growing the group.
I was part of the "Panthers" troop and I also took part in a summer camp, in Madonna di Campiglio. I remember that Marco Gheddes, Carlo Mugnai were with me ?? Funaioli, Giovanni Tani. The camp was really a lot of fun: we built benches, tables and other objects using wood that had been made available to us or that we could cut from some trees. During the day we would walk in the woods, in the evening we'd sit around the fire with stories and some songs.
Everything went almost smoothly, apart from a few days of intense rain. Prof. Pratesi spent the night on the bridge of the river next to which the camp was, for fear that the water would overflow.
The only other accident of note occurred during a game between squadrons. There were 'attackers' and 'defenders' and the aim was, of course, to move among the undergrowth without being detected. In the silence of the valley, a desperate cry rang out. The game was immediately suspended to seek the cause. One of the attackers, in order to hide, had thrown himself headlong into a bush… of nettles! He survived, of course, but I believe that from then on he was much more cautious in his forays than he was. And if I'm not mistaking, it was Giovanni Tani himself.
Without great honors, I reached the last grade and the final exam. Never been a model student, but still, I managed to pass.
Amongst my school mates: Marco Bresciani, still a very good friend , Marco Fantacci, Francesco Calamai, Andrea Doni, Stefano Poli, Stefano Burgassi, Antonio e Marcello Fratini e Fabrizio Sorbi.
Having got over the exam, it was time to decide on future studies. The 'Classic' Lyceum did not attract me at all: I preferred the Scientific one, but there wasn't one at "La Querce". So I decided to enroll in the "Leonardo da Vinci" state high school.
My high school life was full of events, especially related to age, historical period and ... nature.
I had a lot of initial difficulties in entering a state school, very different from the environment I came from and I felt, again, that feeling of 'being late': little things that others took for granted were completely unknown to me. Over time I overcame this initial impact, which saw a confrontation/clarification with the main teacher.
My first means of transport was a Solex, a relative of the Mosquito and precursor of 'pedal assisted' vehicles of today. A few years later, I owned a Motom Nova, a 48cc, with which I gave daily lifts to my classmate, Andrea Valboni, up to the Liceo Dante (that's where we had our 'girls').
Motom - Nova (1967)
I admint that studying, especially with hormones in great turmoil, was far from my first goals. The booming 'Beatles' phenomenon, music (see here) and 'girls' were the predominant themes. We were above all looking for our own identity and personality, even if not indifferent to fashions. I remember the huge wave of "John Lennon" hats, the hair much longer than our parents preferred, the decidedly anti-conformist clothing. Then, in November of '66, the river Arno spoke loudly about himself (I'm talking about it here).
Finally, there was also the tumultuous season of '68, about which much and perhaps too much has already been written. I only remember that
our class (in section D, 13 pupils, a small class because we had chosen German as our language) found itself isolated, surrounded by the
deep red of the protests and demonstrations that took place. Somehow, we got to the high school exams and, having passed those, everyone went
on his own way.
In 2019 we tried to organize a reunion of that class, but there were very few of us (Anrea Nardi, Carlo Ressel, Fabio Torrini, Andrea Valboni and myself. Of the two class girls, only Luisa Santini has emerged from Facebook recently, we have no news of Stefania Pianigiani.
Unfortunately, three of our former class mates passed away when they were still young: Michele Marino, Antonio Martini and Massimo Fasoli.
Between the last year of high school and university, I spent all my savings to buy a (secon-hand) motorcycle: a Gilera 5V, which I hastened to modify in "Easy Rider" style: ox-horn type handlebar, complete with leather pendants, and arched backrest, made by a blacksmith from Rufina. It was only a 125cc., but lots of fun!
My Gilera 5V - 125cc.
The choice to go to university was almost automatic and, perhaps, taken with a certain lightness. Initially oriented towards "Engineering",
I chose "Physics" instead. I was still under the high school charm of Classical Physics and Engineering was, to say, inflated.
As usual, 'I arrived late': I was in England for the usual summer break and I knew nothing that the Faculty had anticipated the start of classes. Not a very good start! My 'beat' attire, my long hair, the old yellow 1948 Riley parked in the alleyways of the Faculty, in Arcetri, certainly did not play in my favor and, I think, I was taken a little in dislike by the academic college. I have no qualms about confessing that this was widely mutual.
Me with my 2.5 Riley
If I'm not wrong, the first year of the course we were 32 in all. Virtually how many in a high school class. Among them I found three acquaintances:
the sister of an ex-friend of mine from the "Querce" Roberto Giubilaro, an ex-schoolmate of mine, Antonio Martini and
Pierfranco Maturo, with whom I then maintained a deep friendship, until his recent and untimely death.
Unlike me, Antonio took up the study with exaggerated enthusiasm. Certainly animated by the best and most deserving intentions, he spent all his time on books. It didn't end well, because he had a terrible nervous breakdown, which had serious consequences on his mental state and a few years later he died.
With Pierfranco, however, we immediately developed a great sympathy. Both fans of electronics and music, we spent hours in company, even outside the classrooms. Pierfranco suffered, since childhood, from a severe form of polio that forced him to help himself with one or two sticks. In the years that followed, however, this did not stop him from working on screen printing frames for 12/14 hours a day.
During the first year I found the lessons interesting, because they seemed to confirm my choice. There was the physics laboratory, where we held experiments on elementary laws of physics. Later, the subjects became too abstract and theoretical for me and I couldn't get enough passionate about them. I met a brick-wall: Prof. Manlio Mandò. At the first exam, which was going quite well, there was one last question to which I answered perhaps with little attention and which reversed the result. I tried two more times later, but each time there was some tricky question. I only learned years and years later that the aforementioned professor did not have much sympathy with the British (because of the War) and I wonder if this has not influenced, apart from my probable ignorance of the subject.
I always had the feeling that in that Faculty the search for "in pectore" geniuses had more attention rather than teaching itself. I was very
disappointed with the university system and was not the only one to leave after a couple of years.
Life is full of surprises and, if I had continued, I certainly would not have lived all the experiences, good and bad, that followed. I remember with sympathy two fellow students of that period: Maurizio Conti (recently found thanks to Facebook) and Stefano (or Guido?) Porciani.
At the end of my (failed) university career, I started looking for a job, as I tell in this other page).