A morning Cappuccino at the Bakery next to Teatro Valle to begin the celebrations. Like most all cafes in Italy it is a family affair and the elderly woman comes over to clear our table. I burst out "It's Maria Montessori's birthday today!" and she smiles and acknowledges this fact. She begins to talk about how her mother worked for 45 years at the Tobacco factory just outside of town and she went to the factory childcare center, which was a Montessori program.
Let's go back to 1870, when Maria Montessori was born. Her father had moved to Chiaravalle from Emilia, the region to the north, which today is part of Reggio Emilia. He was sent there by the Italian Ministry of Finance to oversee the finances of the state run manufacturing operations. Renilde was from the nearby town of Monte San Vito. They fell in love and married, and this Tobacco factory was the center of their life.
The factory's history goes back to 1759, it was founded by the Benedictine Monks in an old mill as an economic activity for the monestary. In 1870 Italy was unified into a single state and the new government nationalized it and sent Alessandro Montessori there to oversee the finances. This factory was the heart of Chiaravalle, where many of the town's ladies worked and in 1870, the same year Maria was born, a boulevard was constructed from the center of town to the factory which was called "Viale delle Sigaraie" Boulevard of the Cigarettes, and in the morning and the evening the town folk went to work and came home.
Silvana was dressed in pink, and as we talked I thought about the pink tower. She was happily reminiscing about her mother and the 45 years of work she put in in this factory, and how her aunt worked there too and she had gone to America to teach those in the American tobacco industry. She nodded yes when I asked if she remembered her experiences in the Montessori Asilo (childcare center) and she said, "I was there for all those years, while my mother worked there and I was too small to go to school." As we said good-bye and tried to pay for our breakfast she refused our money, "I'm treating today, see you tomorrow" she said.