The Centro Montessori reunion at Bergamo and Perugia
A POINT OF AWARENESS - Preciosa S. Soliven (The Philippine Star) - July 12, 2018 - 12:00am

Traveling itinerary in Italy normally focuses in either Rome or Venice. In summer, visiting these 2 places is hectic because of the huge swarm of tourists and the extreme heat. But there are secondary but exciting tourist destinations often overlooked like the Riviera railway tour of Genoa to the UNESCO Heritage site Cinque Terre. Not far away from Rome, the Umbrian cluster of hilltop cities surrounding Perugia like St. Francis’ Assisi, Siena and Todi.

The Regional Trains and Freccia Rossa Express Railway

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of Operation Brotherhood Montessori School, I decided to visit again my old schools in Bergamo and Perugia. The Italian train lines are either the regional trains that stop in every town, or the speedy express train Freccia Rossa (Red Arrow) interlinking major cities like Milan, Venice, Florence, Rome and Naples. Economy fares identified secondo (2) and special primo (1) are marked on the train side.

We started the trip in Genoa, where our close friends Dr. Giunio and Mariann Matarazzo and their children 8-year-old Lucia Preciosa, my godchild and her 7-year-old brother Giunietto. A maritime republic competing with Venice, its political power rested among its numerous shipping magnates who built the magnificent chain of forty Renaissance palaces along Via Rolli, right beside the harbor. We were billeted in one – the Palazzo Grillo converted into a 4-storey hotel still filled with frescoes. A step away is the world famous Acquario di Genova.

We were an entourage of 6 persons including Sara, Jon and their 3 children, Maxine (14), Manolo (12), and Monique (11), with 6 large suitcases and hand carry trolleys reserved for short trips, we filled up a huge Opel van driven by Jed Comia (tel. 324 089 6531) starting from Milano. He is one of ten Filipino professional drivers residing in Milano. They can accommodate as many as 9 passengers to the most popular tourist spots including smaller cities in between. As an example, visits to Venice can access a pilgrimage to the Shrine of St. Anthony in Padua, Romeo and Juliet’s Verona town, the Renaissance Hilltop Cathedral Duomo, the Capella di Condotierre Coleoni in Bergamo – Places that Freccia Rossa does not reach. All major tourist spots are surrounded by both police and the sicurezza soldiers in their heavy camouflage uniforms standing by an army tent. The peak of summer heat is 330C, making tourists line-up in Italian gelaterias and seeking shade in numerous trattorias and pizzerias.

The Trail From Milano, Brescia, Bergamo Down To Venezia

My Bergamo school is half an hour away in Brescia where we stayed with Mary Jo Gervasoni, Jon’s cousin. She is married to Luca Gervasoni whose family is in the steel industry. She took us to the famous MILLE MIGLIA Museum that holds the Ferrari collection of antique sports cars, and the latest models of Mercedes Benz and BMW. Brescia was the headquarters of Garibaldi, the Risorgimento hero that united Italy after the reign of the last king Vittorio Emmanuele II. Bergamo was headed by Condotierri Coleoni affiliated with the Doges of Venice. The train station is at the Citta Bassa (lower city) while the majestic historic monuments are up in Citta Alta which can be reached by the funicular train. Surrounded by a complete Venetian Wall its peak is Cittadella, where the first International Montessori Elementary School Training was held in 1969, which I took with forty educators from different countries. The laboratory school on Via Vittorio Emmanuele headed by teacher coordinator Dr. Eva Haberg, still runs the preschool to elementary school with only 82 children enrolled. It has not reached the secondary level. My mentors Eleanora Honegger and Camillo Grazzini are long gone although Dr. Sylvio Honegger headed the Board from 2000-2015 while Mrs. Fanny Honegger took over up to the present. Course Director of the International Center for Montessori Studies is Dr. Baiba Krumins-Grazzini. My two books, one the memoir “La Bella Maestra” recalling how we established 5 Montessori schools complete from Casa dei Bambini up to Scuola Professionale in the past 50 years and the second I authored “….The Secrets of Childhood From Infancy to Adolescence” have made them aware of the high reputation of the Montessori system all over the Philippine represented by the 5 OB Montessori institutions from preschool to professional high school and made affordable for the 170 Pagsasarili Montessori rural and urban schools co-sponsored by mayors, UNESCO has set it up as the model for “Lifelong Education for Sustainable Development” for ASEAN countries.

The Trail From Siena To Perugia and Rome

After visiting Venice, we found ourselves taking the Freccia Rossa towards Perugia, capital of Umbria, central Italy. Perugia was holding then its founding in 1416. Led by drummers and banner bearers residents of the 59 communes paraded in front of the basilica with its Fontana Maggiore wearing authentic medieval costumes included the noble gentry, craftsmen and farmers. Tourists mingled with university students faced Corso Vanucci. I recall them during the Montessori Teacher Training course I took with Sig. Maria Antonietta Paolini in 1964. With a borsa d’studio I boarded with a family across Teatro Morlacchi across the cathedral. Behind was the aqueduct bridge I passed to take lunch at the university mensa with students who were taking law, agriculture and Fine Arts courses.  

Associazione Montessori, Maria Antonietta Paolini, Perugia

The International Montessori Teacher Training for preschool in Perugia is still at the same address in Santa Croce where I took its AMI course. Connected to the Renaissance Convent of S. Simone church which have undergone restoration of valuable medieval frescoes. Both preschool and training institute have been incorporated here. Sig. Sylvia Dorantes, Training Director and Maria Eva Rossi the Scuola dell’infancia director entertained my daughter Sara de Guzman, CEO of OB Montessori Center and I in their office, the same office of the late Sig. Paolini. Photo of Sara at 14-years with Miss Paolini was taken in the same room in 1985. They were excited to read my books for we could join them in the 70th anniversary celebration of Dottoressa Maria Montessori’s founding of the Perugia Teacher Training Center by 2020. Ma. Antonietta Paolini was one of her pupils. Enrollment in preschool and the elementary school (the only one funded by government) are quite good as they have kept up continuously Montessori awareness in education by welcoming teacher trainees from Italian teacher training colleges for their OJT. 

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