Technically not on a mountain, yet surrounded by whitewashed peaks: Sarnano appears to those who visit like the traditional setting of a nativity scene, with its towers and its walls, churches and buildings characterized by thousands of nuances of one single color that speaks of old times (Middle Ages) and of the earth used, once upon a time, to make the bricks.

9th March 2018. The snowy Sibillini Mountains clearly reflect the recent bad weather conditions, even though today a clear sky is shining above the green hills and the surrounding fields, besides the walls of the new school. Named after a great poet, a fellow country man, Giacomo Leopardi, the school is the real star of this day of celebration.

The secondary school institute, which had been seriously damaged by the earthquake of 2016 (the first shock, in August, put it severely to the test, the second one, in October, totally destroyed it) is being born again, thanks to the synergy between the Andrea Bocelli Foundation and the Only The Brave Foundation. The challenge – rebuilding the school in 150 days  and ensuring “turnkey” delivery – is one step away from the finish line.

In a mountain communities schools are a bit like the main square of the villages: a continuous source of relationships and ideas.

This specific school will ideally have its own square, taking shape around an open air internal court. A green space that interacts with the wood of the classrooms and with the corridors with loggias. A school is a place of growth, of friendships, of future, a tangible symbol of the re-birth of a community that has been wounded but that has strongly reacted.

Today is the day of monitoring, choice of details, and  turned-on cameras (a live broadcast on the main Italian channel) for this pilot project that shows how solidarity can make miracles, thanks to the contribution that citizens have generously offered, also through fast and much-needed tools, like solidarity messages.

Today, above all, is the day of the children from Sarnano.

There is the “mind” that is the architect who conceived the project, those who have realized it, those who are finishing the paving, or the roof. There is Veronica Berti for ABF and Arianna Alessi for OTB. Then there is the “body”, already defined behind the scaffolding. It is a large and safe rectangle made of wood around the central court, a volume flooded with light (thanks to many windows), a container of future with avant-garde spaces for music, for reading, for sport. But to give meaning to this project there is the “breath” of the over a hundred children who today are having the emotion of entering for the first time the body of their new school. They are the oxygen giving back life and meaning to the whole operation.

The children in the past months have been hosted, for their studies, in other buildings. From the windows of their temporary classrooms they could see their school that, step by step, was being rebuilt. They saw lots of people working in the rain or at temperatures well below zero, they saw – only two weeks ago – people shoveling 40 cm of snow from the roof so that the work could continue.

Benedetta is one of the middle school students of Sarnano. She speaks sincerely, as an adult but she does not use catchphrases. She simply expresses her joy and gratitude.

“We follow the tireless work of those who are rebuilding our school, pulled up from the rubble and reborn in a few weeks. I know how it will be, once finished, because I have seen the project on the site. We are looking forward to seeing it, we are so curious to know which will be our classroom, which our desk! We would like to thank the workers and all those who have given us such a great gift, which is the school of course, but also having us freed from fear.

Even Letizia is speaking of fear, and in her eyes anguish seems to be flashing, evoking that recent past: “everything changed, in a few moments. After the first shock it was difficult for us to study peacefully…we were all afraid the earth might shake again. And so it was, and the building was definitely compromised by the second shock. Now we know that the school will be earthquake proof, besides being very beautiful”. Even boys who, at first, were a bit shy want to tell their opinion… Antonio and Andrea, for instance, say: “ it is a dream to see such a big building being rebuilt in such a short time, it seems like a dream that such important people with so many things to do, have thought of our little village.

It is a busy agenda the one of this festive and working Friday, a celebration of the children who will give the school life and breath. A festival of students, with noses in the air, and of their teachers, inside this institute that will soon become their second home. A celebration for the cameras that have immortalized the moment, bringing it, in front of the nation, as a virtuous example. Work for the whole team (the top managers of the two Foundations, the architect, the construction manager, the Mayor, the Councilor, the workers), who have paid a visit to every space of the school, from the lecture hall to the space where the science lab will be created, from the music room to the great gym. An opportunity, therefore, to examine and fully evaluate the situation, to confirm compliance with the deadline, (the bravest challenge), for the definition of practical solutions, such as the choice of the colors of the external covers. Pleasant opportunity of a meeting among people who, united by sharing a project, but also by the same values, have transformed their mutual esteem into friendship.

Veronica Berti has followed the work daily thanks to technology: “The first thought, when Andrea and I woke up, was to check the webcam pointed at the construction site, in the hope that the weather was kind and allowed to work in non-prohibitive conditions”.

Today, however, an early spring sun makes us understand how the worst has passed. Today the school, completed in its supporting structures, shows how the challenge has already been overcome. This is confirmed by the pride of the workers, managers, from the Marche, who tell us about the complexity of the work done and the self-sacrifice of those who have, physically, built the new comprehensive institute Giacomo Leopardi.

Arianna Alessi (Only The Brave), during the live TV show, has underlined the pride of having chosen Sarnano, “A community that strongly desires – even at the cost of great sacrifices – not to abandon its territory”. For the kids of Sarnano, a safe but also beautiful school, thanks to solutions and materials chosen directly and carefully by the founder, Renzo Rosso.

A school full of life, knowledge, sport and of course music, in harmony with art that has rendered a fairytale and a mission the life of our founder, Andrea Bocelli.

And the vice president of ABF, Veronica, has said goodbye to the children with the best news possible: “In a few days we hope to ring the school bell for the first time”

Giorgio De Martino