“May I go upstairs?” I asked the young, foreign waiter as he cleared away our dessert plates. “This used to be my school,” I continued.
“Of course,” he said and his eyes smiled. I could tell he’d had this request before.
Leaving my husband and the Mischief Maker in the courtyard downstairs, I slipped behind the cordoned-off area and slowly walked up the grand staircase. This was one trip down memory lane that I needed to take by myself. Twenty-five years earlier, my friends and I had gone down these same stairs for the last time. It was our last day of secondary school. We were sixteen. We were ready to face the world. Or so we thought.
But today I went up the stairs alone. Or maybe not. In my mind’s eye I could see them still, those smiling faces of so many years ago. The intervening years have changed and moulded us. What we were then were mere shadows of what we have become. We couldn’t wait to discover what lay beyond the heavy red doors. If we only knew how safe and protected we were within those convent walls, we might not have been in such a hurry to find out.
Slowly I went, up the familiar steps, my fingertips lightly caressing the smooth wall. I smiled as I passed the lion that had stood sentinel over the dreams of so many hundreds of girls. At the top of the stairs I stopped and hesitated for only a minute. Then I turned left and went into the first door on my left, into what used to be my last classroom. The roomed seemed bigger. It was bigger.
I realised that two adjoining rooms had been joined into one. It looked so grand now. Gone was the cream paint, the desks, the blackboard and teacher’s platform. In their place were vibrant colours, brocade curtains ad huge, crystal chandeliers. Now it was a room worthy of a palace. And where had they hidden that fireplace?
I continued to open doors and explore. The silence was uncanny. There were moments when I thought that I would surely hear giggles or whispers or even the shrill bell calling us to recess.
But the only sound that disturbed the peace was the clickety-clack of my heels on the stone floors. Whatever secrets these walls had overheard, they guarded them well. Our teenage dreams were safe with them.
This magnificent palace that used to be my school is now a bistro and cultural centre. You can read about the history of Palazzo de Piro here.here.
Palazzo de Piro may be found at 3 Bastions Street, Mdina.