School Music Tours for Bands, Choirs & Orchestras
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Article posted on: September 18, 2017

Tuscany is a popular destination with our groups – and it’s not hard to see why. There are great concert venues, many beautiful cities to explore and loads of exciting excursions to enjoy. 

 

Ackworth School recently visited Tuscany on their school music tour. Alison, one of our Music Tour Specialists, joined them. Here she lets us in on what they got up to!

Monday 10th July

After landing at Pisa Airport at 4.30pm local time, we met the group in the luggage hall and headed through arrivals to meet Anna, our Italian rep who was waiting for us with a smile and sign for ‘Ackworth School’.  

Once everyone had grabbed a bottle of water, we went outside where the coach was waiting for us just across the road.  The sun was shining and it was 27 degrees!

  

It was only a 15 minute drive to Pisa, where we headed straight for the famous leaning tower!  The group split up and were given an hour to explore the site and take photos of the tower. Of course, many went for the almost obligatory ‘holding up the leaning tower with one hand’ pose! 

At 6.30pm we met at the agreed meeting point for the walk back to the coach and left Pisa for Montecatini –Terme.  

Less than an hour later we were dropped off at the hotel entrance with echoes of ‘oooh this looks nice’ heard from the back of the coach. 

Anna saw that everyone got keys to their rooms – a very quick process as the hotel were ready for us – and everyone dumped their bags before heading straight to the dining room for a late dinner.

We had 3 courses which included pasta to start, chicken and potatoes for the main and tiramisu for desert!  

After dinner, we set off for the centre of Montecatini-Terme for an ice cream – even though we were all full from dinner.  We didn’t get back late as everyone was shattered from travelling, so an early night was had by all.

Tuesday 11th July 

An early start with breakfast at 7am!

A plate of croissants greeted everyone on the tables, alongside a buffet of yoghurt, bread and jam, ham and cheese, hot drinks, water and fruit juices. 

After breakfast, we had a quick 10 minutes to collect things for the day from rooms before we boarded the coach which was waiting outside for us at 8am. 

As it was already very warm, we quickly stopped at the coach park in Montecatini-Terme (by the train station) so we could grab some packs of bottled water to store in the hold of the coach before heading out of town towards Florence. 

At 9.15 we arrived into Florence.  

We hopped off the coach and headed into the centre.  It was quite difficult keeping everyone together as a group while walking along the narrow pavements, stopping for traffic lights with lots of people and mopeds about.  But we made it!

 

We started the visit in the Basilica di Santa Croce, before heading towards Piazza del Duomo to visit the Cathedral Santa Maria del Fiore to marvel at the architecture.  

The teachers agreed that the students could split into small groups while they sat at one of the cafes for a cool drink in the sweltering heat.  

The group met back at 12.30, and Anna then led us to Mercato Centrale, which is 5 minutes from Florence Cathedral.  

It was a cool, pop-up food market which had many stalls and stands offering different food, from pizza to sandwiches, salads, meats and cheese and, of course, lots of ice cream! 

We had an hour there to choose our food, eat and relax a little, before heading through the city towards Ponte Santa Trinita. 

 

From here, the group took beautiful pictures of the Ponte Vecchio - the famous medieval stone closed arch bridge over the Arno.  

From Ponte Trinita, we took a walk along the river to Ponte Vecchio itself.  Once photos with selfie sticks had been taken, we returned to the coach. 

We climbed aboard and headed out of Florence back to Montecatini and the hotel. 

We arrived back at the hotel at around 3pm. The group then spent the afternoon playing ball games and relaxing by the pool, which they pretty much had to themselves.  

Around 6pm, everyone went to shower and get into their concert wear, so they were all ready to depart for the concert immediately after dinner.

We ate dinner at 7pm, which was pasta to start, pork with croquets for the main and lemon tart for dessert. The food was really good and everyone enjoyed it, taking care not to spill anything on their white concert shirts!  

Once everyone had dinner, we congregated in the foyer while the equipment was loaded into two taxis.  

The group walked to the venue, the Basilica Santa Assunta in the centre of Montecatini-Terme, arriving around twenty minutes after the taxis.  

While the group set up and did a little warm up, Anna and myself walked around the square outside the church to inform people that the concert was about to take place.  

 

Initially, few came inside the church to sit, but once the group started to sing, more and more trickled in to see the performance. 

Parents of some of the students had arranged to come to the concert to see their children perform and the louder they sang, the more people came to join.  

 

It was a great performance.  At the end, the group were on such a high that they decided to do an impromptu performance outside of the church, which attracted more of the crowds who were milling around the square.  

This was a fantastic end to a great concert.  Once the group had received a big round of applause, taxis were called by Anna and the equipment was loaded back up and carted off to the hotel while the group walked back, tired but happy and ready for bed!

Wednesday 12th July 

Following a little lie-in, we enjoyed another lovely buffet breakfast

We set off a little later from the hotel than we had the day before, and headed towards Ponte Buggianese for a morning of relaxing and pizza-making!  

 

30 minutes later we arrived at Fattoria Settepassi, which is the most beautiful, old, renovated Tuscan country house immersed in a nature reserve and surrounded by fields of sunflowers. 

While the enormous clay pizza oven heated up, the group spent time in the private swimming pool - the sun was already scorching!  

 

Once the oven was hot, we began our pizza-making experience! Stood around tables with the ingredients laid out in front of us, we were taught the importance of getting the dough right, before learning how to make the pizza bases.  

Once our teacher was satisfied we all had a good base, we set about topping them – tomato, mushrooms, ham, sweetcorn, peppers.  

 

All 35 pizzas fitted within the oven at once (on numbered trays so you knew which was your pizza) and took 10 minutes to bake! The result – absolutely delicious, home-made, clay oven baked pizza! So, that was lunch sorted…

We left Fattoria Settepassi with full stomachs and drove to the seaside resort of Viareggio.  

 

On arrival, we were met by one of the lifeguards who took us to our own private section of the beach and explained the rules and regulations. 

We then stripped down to our swimwear, slapped on the sunscreen and enjoyed an afternoon in the sea, sea and sand.  

We played ball games, flew kites, sunbathed and, of course, swam! After 4 hours of fun, we packed up and headed for the coach that was waiting on the promenade, stopping briefly to have yet another ice cream before heading back to Montecatini!

Once showered and changed, we had another delicious dinner at the hotel before setting off on the ten minute walk up to the Montecatini funicular base station.  

 

The cable car takes 40 at a time so we all managed to squeeze in. We rode the cable car up to Montecatini Alto together.  

It was perfect timing, as the sun had just set and there was an orange glow over the town, fading as we got higher and higher towards the top.  The group split up once we arrived at the centre of the medieval town, which consisted of a small square surrounded by restaurants, cafés and a few bars.  

Most went off to hunt for souvenirs while others bought yet more ice cream! At 10.15 we congregated by the cable car and headed down, this time in two groups, to Montecatini-Terme, taking the short route back to the hotel.

Thursday 13th July 

An early rise for a 7am breakfast. Once we’d eaten, we collected our packed lunches from the hotel, and boarded the bus for Siena.  It took an hour and a half to reach Siena, where we were dropped off by the Medici Fortress. 

 

We took the short walk around the walls into Siena itself, which consists of many winding, narrow streets which would be easy to get lost in if it weren’t for the many helpful signs for thousands of tourists who visit every year. 

We passed the Basilica di San Domenico before splitting up to explore the rest of this small city.  Many groups followed the suggested itinerary and visited the Duomo di Siena, the famous Piazza del Campo and Torre del Mangia – the city’s medieval tower.  

Once Siena had been explored, the group sat down in the shade to eat the packed lunches the hotel had prepared for us. After lunch, and once a few postcards had been written, we headed back to the coach for the one hour drive to San Gimignano – another beautiful Tuscan hilltop town. 

We jumped off the coach eager to takes photos of the stunning views of the rolling Tuscan hills. We then took a slow walk up the hill into the walled city. 

The big square, which centred on a prominent well, was quiet. But then we saw the queue of 100 people outside the famous Gelateria Dondoli, all patiently waiting to be served by the official gelato world champion!

We explored the city for an hour, before climbing back on the coach for the 30 minute drive to Certaldo.  

We were dropped off and, after collecting our equipment, took the short walk to the registration desks where we collected our tickets and confirmed our registration for the group’s participation in the Mercantia Festival. 

It was only a short walk to the cable car station from the registration desks and an even shorter ride up to Certaldo Alto (birthplace of Boccaccio), where the festival was about to take place.  

As it was not yet 7pm, we had an early evening meal of meats and cheese to start, followed by pasta and Italy’s favourite dessert – tiramisù.  

Once our hunger was satisfied, we headed to the main square for the group’s festival performance. 

 

The group plunged straight into their programme and really performed at their very best. Not only was this the last performance of the tour, but it was their last all together, as their teacher was departing for another school in September. The end of this, their final concert, was a very emotional time for all.  

The group opened the festival and, by the time they had finished, it was getting dark and hundreds more tourists had made their way up the cable car to attend the festival.  

There were street performers, acrobats hoisted up on large climbing frames, tens of hundreds of people in fancy dress, a giant metallic dancing dragon, stalls with handmade gifts and artwork and plenty of food stalls.   

The atmosphere was electric and the blaring music created such a fun and exciting party atmosphere.

The group were given an hour of free time to watch, listen and take in the other performances at the festival.  

We arrived back at our hotel in Montecatini-Terme at 11pm and everyone headed straight to bed feeling exhausted but happy!

Friday 12th July

Hometime!

After breakfast we waved a sad goodbye to the hotel, arriving at Pisa airport in plenty of time to check in, buy last-minute souvenirs and reflect on the memories of the week, eager to tell family and friends back home.  

If you'd like any information on our school music tours to Tuscany, please don't hesitate to contact us, as we'd be delighted to help!

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