Saturday, April 3, 2010

Istituto San Francesco di Sales -- My Grandfather Vincenzo's School Life

As I have posted previously, my Italian grandfather lost his mother as a young boy and was sent to a religious boarding school.  In 1915 and 1916, when he was 15 years old, he kept a diary during the school year at the Salesian school -- Sacro Cuore -- in San Gregorio, Catania, Sicily.  It is a true gift to have such a wonderful testament to his life at the time.  The diary spans his entire school year, almost 100 years ago, and gives light to a boy with a great talent for writing, his emotions, and the stories he witnessed. 

I have been slowly reading and savoring the diary, a task that is a bit difficult because of his old style Italian language and old-fashioned handwriting; and I'm fluent in Italian!  Even my native-born mother has difficulty reading it.  But together we are transcribing it into a computerized document, and I plan to also translate it into English. 

One thing I have learned is that prior to the school in San Gregorio, where he was located while writing the diary, he was at another Salesian school in Catania -- the Istituto San Francesco di Sales.  I googled the school, and, in fact, the school temporarily closed down from 1915 to the end of WWI because it served as a hospital for the wounded -- hence the reason he went to Sacro Cuore in San Gregorio.  My grandfather does describe in his diary a visit to his old school and the wounded he saw there.  But what is really fascinating to me is that the school Web site has some old photographs of students during the year 1914 BEFORE it was turned into a hospital.  I can't help wonder if my grandfather is among the students in the pictures.  Following are pictures I obtained from the school Web site here.

Historic picture of the San Francesco di Sales school in Catania.

Students from the year 1914 (above and below).  Is my grandfather among them? Probably.

1 comment:

  1. Astrid, I've chosen you to receive the "Ancestor Approved Award". You can pick it up and find the details at