Two events converged last weekend. It was one of those weekends when palermo opens the doors to certain forgotten or under-appreciated monuments, schools, crypts, asylums, prisons, castles, cemeteries, or museums and there is no entrance fee. The other thing that happened last weekend was " The schools adopt the city," a program started in current Mayor Leoluca Orlando's first term back in the early 1990s, in which elementary and high school classes pick a monument in their neighborhood, learn everything about it, make multimedia info about it and become erudite guides for tourists and the curious Palermitani. The kids are really GREAT at this. One took me by the hand off Via Calatafimi where I was walking home and asked if I wanted to see his school. Gaetano was so informed, sweet, and courteous, how could I say no?
He stuck with me through the entire tour through this grade one through 12 school in a former cloistered convent, but handed me off at various points to his classmates who specialized in the knowledge of one part of the school, from the cloister windows set high so the nuns couldn't look out of them ( they knelt and prayed at night to the moon, the stars and the planets through a clerestory window) to the clandestine, unmarked grave of one nun visiting from Switzerland who died of typhoid, to the Japanese wisteria vine on a terrace where the nuns once visited with their parents, to the church englobed by the school, to the outdoor classroom under a rose arbor , to the orange grove, and the Palm Garden where they take recess, to the Liberty style refectory where the smallest kids eat lunch on tables covered with fine tablecloths. Yes, this is a public school!