On the 13th July 2012, Kathryn Cunningham, a Rayburn Tours courier, set off to the beautiful Italian region of Tuscany with 39 representatives from Davenies School. Here she gives us just a sneak peak at the highlights!
Friday 13th July
After touching down in Italy, we excitedly disembarked the plane and headed for our transfer coach to our hotel. The journey took about an hour but it gave us a chance to soak up the sights of Pisa, the famous Leaning Tower and the terracotta roof of the Baptistery, all of which were clearly visible from the road. Check-in at the hotel was smooth and trouble-free, followed by a rehearsal in the garden of the hotel – welcome to Italy! I had never heard hand-bells before, and I was enthralled. The boys soon polished off their first Tuscan dinner, which was followed by a quiz, organised by Mr Churchouse.
Saturday, 14th July
Our first morning in Tuscany left us free to explore the area of Monticatini, including a visit to a “Gelateria”, where most of the boys declared the ice-cream was the best that they had ever tasted! After lunch in the hotel, we visited the Piazza dei Miracoli in the centre of Pisa, where the boys were amazed at how much the Tower really does lean! A short drive later and we were in the Podere Anselmo, near the small town of Montespertoli. The Podere is a family-run Agriturismo, with several apartments set in the beautiful Tuscan countryside surrounded by Chianti vines and Cyprus trees. We received a warm welcome, and the boys performed their first concert watched by visitors and guests. After enthusiastic applause and an encore, the group enjoyed a buffet of typical Tuscan fare. It was a long day and the boys retired to bed tired but proud of their first Italian performance.
Sunday, 15th July
Today’s destination was Florence! A walking tour of the city gave us a chance to visit the Duomo and the Piazza della Signoria – the boys were in awe of the magnificent architecture surrounding them. We crossed the Ponte Vecchio and our packed lunch was eaten in the beautiful Boboli Gardens; a lovely shady spot was found, which was a pleasant relief from the high temperatures we had enjoyed all week. The second concert venue was the Casa di Riposo il Bobolini, a very nice home for elderly residents, just a short drive from the city centre. The home has wonderful facilities including a purpose built theatre with a stage. The concert was very successful and an audience of approximately 80 people enjoyed the performance very much, with many shouts of “Bravi” being heard. Dinner was taken in the hotel, followed by a game of football in one of Monticatini’s several parks – a great way to end the day!
Monday, 16th July
Today we made our way to the picturesque “Town of Towers”, San Gimignano, driving through the typically Tuscan countryside which can be seen in paintings and calendars. Sant’Agostino, a thirteenth century church and monastery, was a perfect venue for the third and final concert. Many tourists visiting ‘the cycle of 17 frescoes of the life of Saint Augustine’ stayed to enjoy the music and, at times, there were as many as 100 in the audience. The boys seemed to gain confidence with each performance and the atmosphere within the church was quite special. After a packed lunch, which was eaten in the Cloisters, the students were driven to Siena for the afternoon. After a walking tour of the city, the boys were given some free time to do some shopping for souvenirs within the Campo, the square where the world-famous Palio takes place. Calendars of various sizes were the most popular buy, closely followed by football shirts – I would expect nothing less!
Tuesday, 17th July
Our flight home was not until the evening, so our final day was spent exploring Monticatini in depth, after an enjoyable morning by the hotel’s pool. The Funiculare, which was founded in1898 and as such is the oldest in Italy, was taken up to Monticatini Alto; a lovely, tiny Borgo with a church and remains of a castle, both dating from the 13th century. A packed lunch was eaten some 300 metres above sea-level, overlooking the spas of the more modern town. A game of mini-golf, followed by a delicious pizza, finished off an enjoyable and successful Concert Tour to Tuscany.