0624 GMT January 19, 2021
The former railway worker stepped forward to receive his diploma and the traditional laurel wreath awarded to Italian students when they graduate, applauded by his family, teachers and fellow students more than 70 years his junior, News18 reported.
"I am a normal person, like many others," he said, when asked what it felt like to be graduating so late. "In terms of age I have surpassed all the others but I didn't do it for this."
Already in his 90s when he enrolled for a degree in History and Philosophy at the University of Palermo, Paterno grew up loving books, but he never had the chance to study.
"I said, 'that's it, now or never,' and so in 2017, I decided to enroll," he told Reuters in his apartment in the Sicilian city of Palermo, which he rarely leaves nowadays due to his frailty.
"I understood that it was a little late to get a three-year degree but I said to myself 'let's see if I can do it'."
He graduated first in his class with top honors, receiving congratulations from the university chancellor Fabrizio Micari.