So this June I decided lastminute.com to teach drama in Italy for a company called ‘The English Theatre of Europe’. It was a very rash decision as I have never been abroad alone before but I wanted to push myself…so I did.
Each week I stayed in a different part of Italy with a different host family (luckily all of which were lovely) teaching children Drama and English. We had a week to prepare the performance of ‘The Jungle Book’ including making the scenery, learning songs and dances with them and making sure they enjoyed themselves at summer school. I took a flight to Pisa which is very cheap with RyanAir and the great thing about Pisa is that you can get the train to almost anywhere from there so easily.
My first stop was a town called Livorno.
Unfortunately it only really has a few beach areas which are man-made. The one I visited was Bagni Nettuno Stabilimento Balneare just by the port. It was around 9 Euros for entry and a sunbed for the whole day but it’s only small so you only need a few hours to enjoy the sea, bar and amusements.
A mear 5 miles away from the centre of Livorno there is a religious hillside village called Montenero which means the black mountain. It has some beautiful restaurants, an amazing church which is maintained by monks and an incredible view from the top of the mountain.
I really enjoyed the Canals in Livorno; they are beautiful, you can watch the rowing and they even go underneath the main square. Livorno is known for it’s Pizzeria’s and the two I would recommend are Pizzeria Della Venezia which is along the canal and very pretty, and Rosso Pomodoro Pizzeria near the main square http://www.rossopomodoro.it/
I was lucky to be in Livorno at the right time as we drove into Pisa to see the festival of the Luminara which happens every year on 16th June. The Luminara is held to celebrate San Ranieri, the city’s patron saint who is celebrated on June 17. The Leaning Tower was lit up by candles inside it and Pisans light wax candles along the Arno on windowsills and on the river. It is so beautiful and at 11pm the three sets of fireworks go off at the same time; the atmosphere is incredible and I would definitely recommend visiting Pisa in June just to see this.
So week two came around and after a short train journey from Livorno I arrived in Massa, one of the most beautiful places I have ever visited. The summer school we were teaching at was up in the mountains so I had a fantastic view every day. The beaches in Massa are endless and a lot of them are free too which is great. My host family were a member of Il Forno beach which is in Marina Ronchi right next to the free beach and the rocks where you can go crabbing.
As you can see you have the sea one side and the mountains the other.
There are over 50 beaches along the coast to choose from so you really are spoilt for choice and if you love a walk along the beach it’s perfect.
In the centre of Massa there are a number of squares; this square is called Mercurio Square and has wild Orange trees growing round the sides (unfortunately not edible) and the Mercurio Statue. All the squares have great bars where young people hang out daily after work and plenty of restaurants and pizzerias. I must have got lucky again as every year in Massa they have a night on 25th June called Notte Bianca which means white night. It’s the biggest party night in Massa and the whole town is packed and buzzing with an amazing atmosphere. I would recommend visiting at this time especially for the outdoor dance music rave in Garibaldi square.
One of my favourite parts of Massa was up by the castle; Castello Malaspin . The views were incredible and you can see over the whole of Massa; even the walk up the mountain to the castle is incredible.
You can also pay a small fee to enter the castle and the museum if you wish.
Another place you may like to visit whilst in Massa are the Marmo Di Carrara Caves. Michaelangelo sourced his marble for his sculptures here and you can watch them hard at work in the quarry.
Massa also has an incredible cathedral called Duomo Cathedral which is very popular for weddings, a lovely theatre and in Massa Centrale a huge shopping centre.
My third and final week was in a town called Venturina. This is a perfect central point for catching a bus, train or driving to different parts of Italy you may not know existed. Some of the beaches here are so natural and covered in greenery it’s beautiful and so relaxing to have both the sea and nature.
Baratti beach has two sides; a more secluded and quiet side with mainly rocks and a little bit of sand, and a busier more lively side with a nature reserve, a park, pedalos, a bar and live music. Both sides were free and had GLITTER in the sand, but I preferred the livelier side as I love pedalos and the water was perfect to snorkel in; crystal clear.
Follonica is the liveliest of all the beaches but the most expensive. It has a real sea side resort feel with a promenade, lots of shops and ice cream bars and a very calm sea. I only visited here at night time and it was always buzzing with a great vibe. In between Follonica and Piombino (the two best beaches near Venturina) there is a beach smack bang in the middle along the coast called Nano Verde which means small green.
This beach is set just past a nature reserve and has hammocks, live music and a great sea for swimming. It’s got a real hippy vibe and it’s great for tree climbing.
If the sea is too choppy or you want somewhere you can relax in very warm water and have a swim, then you must visit Calidario Thermal Springs; a short drive from the centre of Venturina.
The water is naturally hot as it comes from the mountain springs and it is crystal clear. It’s open until 9 and there is an indoor spa with sauna and indoor pool. It was only 20 Euros entry and you get a sunbed, towel and can stay as long as you like. Read more about Calidario Thermal Spa here http://www.calidario.it/en/
For anyone who has never been to Italy; go! It’s very different to Spain; a lot greener and I fell in love with the place so I hope you do too. The water is very warm in June in most places around the coast of Italy and there’s enough beautiful cities to keep returning. Teaching abroad is one of the most challenging things I have ever done but I’ve learnt that language doesn’t have to be a barrier as body language is the same in all countries. I’m quite proud of myself and although I never want to hear the song ‘The Bare necessities’ again, I would do it again.