Day Three – The San Patrignano Experience
Sunday morning the group of us went on a field trip to the San Patrignano outpost of Botticella. Botticella is approximately 40 km from the main campus and is situated up in the mountains. The trip up there began with a stop at a coffee bar where we could get a good cup of coffee or tea. We grabbed a cup to go (the Italians call it “take away”) and back in the mini van we went.
Let me tell you, it is not easy with a take away to keep the coffee in the cup on the roads in Italy! Between the winding roads, the narrowness of the roads, the motorcyclists who believe the lines are merely recommendations, no shoulders and the bicyclists, Kate and I were fortunate that the drink ended up in our stomach and not in our lap!
The scenery along the way was majestic. Matteo and Arianna provided lots of backstory on the region and Botticella/San Pa along the way. Arianna works with the Executive Director of the facility, Monica, in the administrative offices. It was she who reviewed our applications and motivational letters so she knew a little about us already. We chatted throughout the day and by the afternoon we were able to find commonality in our stories and our lives. The same with Matteo.
I have to say that one of the most gratifying parts of this experience has been the humanity piece. Not only are we making new friends in the participants of workshop but we are discovering new layers of ourselves during this process. Through the process of simple conversation we become vulnerable with people like Arianna, Rachele, Alessandro, and Tom. We can identify with their struggles, their fears, their emotions not only because we have been there but also because this is part of what it means to be human; we are all brothers and sisters trying find our way and helping each other along the way.
Upon our arrival we were greeted by the director, Marco. He explained the admission process in general and the role of Botticella in that process in particular. Basically, Botticella is a testing ground. When a person applies for admission they are interviewed at least once. If the administration is unsure of depth of the commitment of the applicant they will accept them on a preliminary basis and send them to Botticella. Marco explained that the applicant is “put to the test” – the lines on the bedspread must be perfectly straight or they must remake the bed, there must be nothing on the floor of the bedroom or they must re-clean it, the table settings must be perfectly spaced and aligned or they must re-do it, etc. They do this to make sure the applicant understands what is expected of them in San Pa over the next 3-4 years.
Botticella is also the starting point for a new program dealing with gambling addiction. The gambling problem in Italy is growing exponentially – particularly with online gambling and lottery scratch-offs. The gambling program is the same structure as the drug program at San Pa with a few exceptions; there is more psychotherapy involved in the program and the program is condensed over an 18 month period rather than 3+ years.
Marco was most gracious host and quite entertaining while being very informative. He asked about the English word for “Bullwinkle” as he made antlers using his hands. He brought out a large set of deer antlers, held them up to his head and proclaimed “Big Bambi”. He thought his English was “terrifying”. “When I try to speak the English I sound like I have a mouth full of potatoes.”