Afternoons and weekends were not short of places to visit or things to do. I looked forward to afternoon excursions such as the trip to Pietrasanta, a charming little town that became the center of vigorous artistic movement and the meeting point for hundreds of artists who came from each part of the world to work, sculpt, and learn new techniques. The towns of Pisa and Lucca were also on the list of afternoon excursions. From the weekday aerobics classes on the beach where I quickly learned that speedos were a popular choice of mens’ swimwear (regardless of age) to the evening string quarter quartet concert in the Duomo of Pietrasanta featuring music by Mozart, Boccherini, and Schubert, there were a variety of ways to spend my free time in Lido and the surrounding areas.
I distinctly remember the evening I went to Forte dei Marmi, which was two over from Lido, for the famous Festa di St. Ermete where there was a huge outdoor market and towns spectacular fireworks at night. That evening I saw Andrea Bocelli live in concert and fell in love with his song “Con Te Partirò”. I had absolutely no clue what the English translation was, but the melody was beautiful. It wasn’t until recently that I translated the lyrics into English – and in my opinion, they are better appreciated in Italian.
Saturdays were reserved for day-long excursions departing from Lido, which would require travel by bus, unlike the trip to Pietrasanta which we traveled to by a little street train. Volleyball and ping-pong matches on the beach were common activities for Sunday afternoons and evenings in Lido and neighboring towns, as was grabbing a gelato from the gelateria in town or one of the many that lined the waterfront. In addition to gelaterias, the waterfront was lined with hotels and resorts, bars, restaurants, pizzerias, cafes, and shops as well as stalls with vendors displaying their arts and crafts, and the local clothing trends at bargain prices – all perfect opportunities to practice my Italian with the locals.
My 3 weeks in Lido went by quickly, but that was more than enough time to spend in the sleepy seaside resort town. Many of us developed a friendship with the locals, seeing them practically every day for 3 weeks. They embraced our eagerness to learn more about Italy, and we exchanged stories about our lives in the US. As we prepared to leave Lido, some of the students said good-bye to the local shop owners with “il bacetto”– an air kiss on each cheek commonly used when greeting or saying goodbye to friends and family. This took me a while to get used to, so I opted for a simple hug.
As a quintessential Italian beach town with a laid-back vibe, Lido was the perfect introduction to Italy in the summertime. Its close proximity to neighboring towns like Viareggio, Pietrasanta, and Forte dei Marmi offers easy access to nighttime concerts, art festivals, and a seasonal carnevale’ (held in Viareggio in September). While most of my excitement came from the fact that I had never been to Europe before and would be living in Italy for the next 4 months, Lido, the surrounding towns, and the weekend excursions piqued my interest to see more of Italy and made me even more excited for what was to come.