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Civico Polo Scolastico Alessandro Manzoni

Civico Polo Scolastico Alessandro Manzoni—“la Manzoni” for friends—is a 150-year-old (and counting) secondary school in Milan and a gem in the city’s cultural landscape. Born as an all-female institution, it was founded just weeks after Italy’s unification at the initiative of town councillor and national politician Carlo Tenca, with a clear view to creating a modern, forward-looking learning centre for the city’s women to fully express their potential and eventually gain a long-due recognition of their contribution to the community. It remains, to date, one of the few schools in Italy to be entirely owned and operated by a municipality, the Comune di Milano, reaffirming the local council’s commitment to accessible, high-quality education.

By 1978, in the midst of seismic cultural and societal changes in Italy, the school had opened its doors to male students, adding to an ever-increasing user base which compelled its administration to envisage a move of most of its activities from a charming historic venue, Palazzo Dugnani, to a new compound in the expanding Rubattino area. La Manzoni easily grew to be the largest of just five secondary establishments in Italy to focus on foreign languages at the time, and served as a blueprint for the expansion of its curriculum to state schools, contributing to the birth of liceo linguistico nationwide.

Palazzo Dugnani’s facade seen from the Indro Montanelli public gardens. © Steffen Schmitz (Carschten) / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0

In 2011 came the occasion to reunite its academic and business-oriented courses in a single building, the Polo Deledda, a renewed and refitted, easily accessible location to the southern edge of the dynamic NoLo district. By that time, true to its long-standing trailblazing tradition, it had integrated Chinese in its instruction (2008). It is currently in the process of phasing in Russian as well (2020).

La Manzoni’s debating society is more than a quarter of a century old, and ever since 2003, thanks to the vigorous initiative and resourcefulness of a small group of dedicated and experienced advisors, it has been hosting Milan’s first Model United Nations conference: MilanMUN. Today, new teachers have picked up their baton, renewing a commitment to the principles that inspired its birth: to complement the school’s mission by providing students with a clear international outlook, strong critical-thinking skills, and a refined, humane understanding of world issues in order to foster the global citizens of tomorrow.

Civico Polo Scolastico Alessandro Manzoni. Photo courtesy of Margherita Matilda Rugarli