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Military schools: in the trenches at age sixteen

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It’s all about “being, rather than seeming”.

A bright red brick citadel, known as the Rosso Maniero (‘Red Manor’) overlooks the city of Naples from the top of the Pizzofalcone Hill. Every year these buildings host an evocative and ancient ceremony. Young men and women reach it on parade with their rifles on their shoulders, wearing turquoise trousers with a magenta stripe down one side and a navy blue jacket with two rows of brass buttons. The number ‘1’ on their caps indicates that they belong to Italy’s first battalion.

The ceremony culminates in the centre of the citadel’s large courtyard, where six cadets exchange a symbolic wooden slat used to clean brass buttons without soiling the uniforms. Yet, despite this traditional handover between older students and new recruits, this is not yet a military academy, properly speaking, and even though they are in their third year, the uniformed ‘elders’ have only just entered adulthood.

La Nunziatella, its official name, is one of the oldest military schools in the world. Its young students abide by strict rules and share spartan living conditions. Their days begin with the raising of the flag and end with evening roll call, with studies and athletic activities in between.

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