This is the first article in a series of differences between schools in Italy and in America.
In many ways Liceo Virgilio’s facade is very similar to those of the surrounding buildings on the Via Giulia. In fact, its stuccoed brown exterior fits nicely on the old Renaissance street. One difference that sets the school apart, however, is a vast spattering of egg that was thrown, presumably by angry students, in August and still remains now. One notices upon further exploration of the school that decoration of this kind is not actually out of the ordinary at Virgilio. In fact, vandalism is quite common throughout the school. Upon entering the Liceo, the first thing one notices is a bar, where at break, over a hundred students try to fit into one small room to order bombe and cornetti. From there begin the rows and rows of graffiti-covered walls, interrupted only by doors for classrooms and stairwells. In each of these classrooms are about thirty chairs, fifteen desks, a chalkboard, (rarely) chalk and a trashcan. That is all. No computers, no posters, no books. Down the hall are the bathrooms where one can find, or rather not find, a number of even more mystifying absences. The missing items include both toilet paper and paper towels. Another interesting puzzle is the urinals, covered by plastic bags, seemingly there only for ornamentation.
After buying pastries and cappuccini during break, over 1,000 students then crowd into the small school courtyard to eat and smoke. The courtyard is paved with concrete and littered with trash. While the school custodians do succeed in cleaning up most of the garbage each day, there is a space between a low wall and the school building which they don’t bother with and is therefore covered with a foot of bottles and cans. The courtyard is sometimes also filled with smoke from flares lit during communist demonstrations, which are held to rouse the students for upcoming strikes. School is closed roughly one day every two weeks for these demonstrations. The objective of the strikes is to push the Italian government to put more money, or really any money at all, into public education. All these protests, however, haven’t yet obtained toilet paper for Liceo Vergilio.