Go into any large stationary store or bookshop in Italy, and you will come across a section full of bright and colourful diary/organisers. There are those with plain or simple designs whilst others have specific themes or are based on popular films, TV shows, or cartoon characters (often Japanese ones). They are usually quite thick, with a page for each school day, and various sections of general factsheets, space for notes, phone numbers, etc. Basically the kind of organiser that is gradually being replaced by the inexorable rise of the smartphone.
These diaries are a big part of Italian school life and many an Italian will have fond memories stashed away in their ‘diario scolastico’ of each school year. The primary purpose of these diaries is to record the homework that is supposed to be due for each day. However, in practice, they end up being almost like a personal journal, recording random thoughts, doodles, messages, quotes, and photos. Imagine the amount of gossip and rumour that will be recorded in these pages! Many students will decorate and personalise their diaries with cutouts of favourite singers or actors. As the year progresses, the typical diary will expand as bits of paper are slipped or glued in. In many ways, the diario scolastico is each pupil’s personal companion, a bit like a smartphone of yesteryear, that will stay with them throughout the school year.
Indeed, it’s a bit of a ritual to go out and buy your diario for the coming school year. Picking up different ones in the shop and picturing how you might personalise it. Perhaps you might prefer a plain one that you can cover with your own photos or artwork. Or maybe you have a favourite cartoon character that you would like to have on the cover. It’s not unknown for high school students to buy these as well, even though they are really intended for those at primary school.
I think it’s a wonderful tradition, since you can look back at your diaries in years to come and immediately have all your school memories–good and bad–come flooding back. The kind of thing you might want to show your own children one day. It’s a shame we don’t have anything similar in the UK, and I suspect, with time, smartphones and tablets will take over in Italy as well. Still, while it lasts, viva il fantastico diario scolastico!