When I find myself passing the school near the dismissal time, at 1 p.m., I often just find a place to stand aside and start smiling. The parents and grandparents are there to pick up their kids, making a ring around the entrance or waiting at a table at Bar Tullia, just beside the school.
The students are assembled in groups inside the door, with volunteers in bright vests both escorting them to the buses below in the Piazza Repubblica, or out the door to meet parents and often grandparents.
When “the moment” arrives, chaos breaks out. Carrying huge backpacks, the ones heading down to the buses start running to be the first ones in line at the two little grocery stores—for chips, ice cream or candy, since they only have minutes before the school buses leave for the surrounding communities. The rest know where Granddad or Mom or Dad usually waits, and meet up with them to walk home for lunch. (Italian “pranzo” is at 1:30, because the schools let out at 1 p.m., leaving just enough time to get home and get a seat at the table for lunch.)
Police and volunteers hold back traffic in the area during the dismissal time, and the kids are yelling and running and holding hands with friends and smiling. Parents calmly tie shoes, take over the backpacks, and walk them back home on the traffic-free streets.