99-year-old Italian gran passes school exam

A 99-year-old grandmother in Sardinia on Tuesday received her certificate for passing Italy's middle school exam, said to be a lifetime dream after she was taken out of education to work in her family's olive grove.

99-year-old Italian gran passes school exam
Francesca Careddu said she was too nervous to sleep the night before the exam. Exam hall photo: Shutterstock

Francesca Careddu, born on 16 January 1915, was given the exam certificate during a ceremony at the Maccioni middle school in Nuoro.

Mayor Alessandro Bianchi presented the award, while school staff and students also turned out to celebrate the occasion, Il Secolo XIX reported. Careddu wept as she clutched her certificate, more than 80 years after she first lost the chance to take the test, the newspaper said.

“When I was little I was taken to the countryside to harvest the olives. There were a lot of things to do in the family and my parents took me out of school because my mother became ill,” she was quoted in Il Secolo XIX as saying.

“Then I was married and had eight children: some graduated, all my grandchildren graduated, it was only me that remained tormented by never having done the exam,” Careddu explained.

Despite the support of her entire family, who all came to the award ceremony, Careddu said she had a sleepless night ahead of the exam because she was so anxious.

Sardinians are well-reputed for their longevity. Last year, a family in the island celebrated being named the oldest siblings in the world, with a combined age of 818. The head of the family, then aged 106, said her long life was “all down to minestrone”.

READ MORE: Sardinian family's tip for a long life: minestrone

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Theft of sand from Sardinia’s beaches on the rise again – despite fines of up to €3,000

With the return of mass tourism this summer came a new increase in the theft of sand, pebbles and shells from Sardinia’s protected beaches, environmental campaigners say.

Theft of sand from Sardinia’s beaches on the rise again - despite fines of up to €3,000
A beach in Sardinia's Porto San Paolo. Photo: Daniel Slim/AFP

A campaign group called ‘Sardegna rubata e depredata’ (Sardinia robbed and plundered) estimated that at least six tonnes of sand had been taken from the island’s beaches this year alone, mostly by foreign visitors.

In 2017, it became illegal to remove sand, shells and pebbles from Sardinia’s beaches as they were classed as protected resources. People breaking these rules face fines of between €500 and €3,000 – and anyone caught attempting to take larger quantities risks a prison term.

But it seems that many visitors haven’t got the message, as sand theft – and the number of fines being issued to those caught stealing – has risen again this summer with the return of international tourists.

READ ALSO: What is Italy doing to protect its coastline?

In July alone, customs officers at Sardinia’s Alghero airport seized 1.4 kilograms of sand from the island’s beaches during systematic bag searches, the Ansa news agency reported on Tuesday.

Items found in the possession of departing passengers at the airport last month reportedly included numerous plastic bottles filled with sand, 743 sea pebbles, 43 shells and a rock weighing 1.2 kg. 

All passengers caught with the illegal souvenirs were fined, police said.

Campaigners said most culprits are foreign tourists who usually “don’t really have a motive”. 

“Perhaps to arouse the envy of friends and relatives, or to recreate the feeling of the holiday in their living rooms, or even to decorate a home aquarium,” the group wrote on its Facebook page.

“Some do it probably because there is such a sense of discomfort in having to leave the island. They try in a desperate way to take it with them, in their hands, instead of keeping the memories in the heart,” the group said.

In rarer cases, the motive for the theft appears to be profit – with reports in Italian media that bags of precious pink sand from Sardinia’s protected beaches are being sold online to “collectors”.

A couple of French tourists last year were caught trying to board a ferry with 40kg of sand in 14 large plastic bottles in the boot of their car.