London, United Kingdom
December 26, 2004
Imagine it. The air is still warm on yet another hot Tuscan night. You catch the scent of pines from the pineta and the tang of salt from the Ligurian sea. The sound of excited Italian voices is in the air, and the BOOM, BOOM from the speakers throws music onto hundreds of revelers. There they dance until dawn, and you can see across a sea of happy party-loving faces squeezed onto the road between the nightclub and the beach.
This is Torre del Largo in summer. And the best fun in the area must be in the gay nightclub Ma Ma Mia, which faces onto the passeggiata a mare (the sea road). Gay and straight mix in together in an orgy of drinking and dancing. There is a tiny outside dance floor, so the crowds spill out onto the pavement and across to the beach. They completely block the sea road, forcing people to push their way through them or be swallowed up in the throng. The music gets everyone dancing, and the atmosphere is infectiously happy. This is what summer in Pisa is all about.
Getting to the passeigiata a mare is tricky; public transport from Pisa and the Torre del Largo is sparse and there are no taxis. Get there early, as parking can be difficult, as half of western Tuscany descends on the beach for a night out. And at about 11pm, the real action begins.
The DJ, Piero, begins to crank up the sound. But there is a floor show, and families just walking past stand in amazement as the act begins. It starts with the inevitable drag-queens, in multi-coloured wigs, called Queen, Markesa and Marzio, and they were supported by some very chiseled go-go dancers. This all happens way above the crowds on a platform lit by spotlights (see photo), accompanied by the DJ and loud cheering from below. For the rest of the night, until 2am, the DJ plays international top-20 tunes and favorite Italian pop songs. This really gets the crowd going, and us foreigners stand in bemusement as a thousand voices sing along to
"OOOhhh, baby . . . ooohhh . . . aaahhh . . . I wanna knowwww . . . will you be my girl . . . "
Rather ironic considering the nature of the audience.
The drinks system is very interesting. You ask for your drink at the till and pay there. Then take the receipt to the barman, who will give you your drink. You must try a Negroni, made of aniseed, vodka, and some kind of black treacle. But most are on a natural high and don't need alcohol. The party goes on all night, and you will need your best clothes, as well as plenty of stamina, to keep up with everyone.
Ma Ma Mia and the Ligurian coast in summer is one of the hidden treasures of Italy.
From journal Under the Tuscan sun - Doing the passoggia in Florence and Pisa