As a nation state, Italy has emerged only in 1871. Until then the country was politically divided into a large number of independant cities, provinces and islands. The currently available evidences point out to a dominant Etruscan, Greek and Roman cultural influence on today's Italians.
I have been told by my uncle that my grandfather who came from Arsie, Belluno, Veneto, Italy...only attended school through the 3rd grade. I think they were very poor and he possibly had to work - not sure as I don't know what kind of work they did, except they did have cattle they tended.
I'm wondering what the school customs were of that area and time frame(1895 - 1905), or if you know of any books or web sites that may give me some clues.
I'm wondering what age they started school and how many years did they normally go through.
Back in those days the majority of the kids belonging to the lower classes did not attend school but were forced to go to work due to the fact that times were very rough and an extra hand was always welcomed in field labors.
A kid from 6 till 11 yrs old was lucky if he finished grade school (elementary school from 1st to 5th grade). Only kids from well to do families or from families that could afford it, like artisans and alikes, went beyond 5th grade.
In southern Italy, a lot of kids from poor families decided to become priests so that they could have a change to receive a good education.
I can add some more information about school in that period of time.
Firstly: in 1877 the Legge Coppino introduced free and compulsory education (the two first years of elementary) and added to the previous legislation -Legge Casati- some kind of economic penalty for those who didn't accomplish the required years. Before that, education relyed upon catholic institutions. Unfortunately the expenses to maintain schools and teachers depended on comuni and so very often the poorer weren't able to afford them and so the catholic one remained the only kind of school (and not a free one) until 1904. Legge Orlando stated that school expenses were to be paid by the state. It also extended compulsory education until the age of 12 altough real obligation ended at 10.
So from this year there were 5 years of elementary school.
There was an exam at the end of third grade and another one at the end of the 5th. After that, if you had money you could go to the Ginnasio (5 years) which used to prepare for Liceo and then University. Only families with high income could afford a Ginnasio. Otherwise a very skilled boy (never a girl) could go to the technical school ending sometimes at university.
Peasants, who were the very large majority of population, used to quit school after 3 or 5 maximum years. The only chance that they eventually had (if they were talented) to go further, was to enter the seminary. Not necessarily to become a priest ending secondary school without taking orders.
My grandparents were from a very small village on the Appenini in northern Italy and they all ended school at age 8. Every day, since the school wasn't in their village but in a "near" one 7 km away, they had to walk all the way up and down the mountains, so you can imagine that with snow and rain it was really difficult to reach school. I can presume that situation in Belluno, near the Alps, was very much the same and so the only chance for your ancestor to study was enter a seminar. I heard a lot of old people talking about someone else from the same age saying "he was due to become a priest" but then didn't, just because this was the only way to study.
I'm sorry I've been so long and boring. Hope it might be of some interest anyway.