YOUNG ambassadors and teachers from two primary schools are heading to Italy to meet their Tuscan counterparts.

The groups from Cockenzie Primary School and St Gabriel's Primary School in Prestonpans - who are travelling separately - have been practising their Italian as they prepare to make journeys to the town of Barga and its surrounding area.

The Prestonpans, Cockenzie and Port Seton and Longniddry school cluster has long-established links with the region, which has seen Italian pupils make reciprocal trips to Scotland.

Among the highlights of this year's trip for the P7 pupils from Cockenzie Primary will be a chance to share artwork inspired by one of Cockenzie's most famous sons, John Bellany.

The pupils will visit the Scuola Media, a middle school in Fornaci for pupils aged 11-14, and bring some of their own creations prepared specially for the visit, inspired by a recent visit to an exhibition of Bellany's work at the Scottish National Gallery. Gail Corr, depute headteacher, said: "John Bellany lives close to the school in Fornaci and has a gallery nearby. We learned he does a self-portrait of himself every year on his birthday so the children did self-portraits in the style of John Bellany and picked another painting they wanted to reproduce.

"We'll be displaying the pupils' paintings in the school and pupils and parents will be invited to go along.

"Our kids' Italian is very limited and the Italian pupils' English still isn't massively fluent, but playing with a football is the same in any language." Mrs Corr, who will join the pupils on the trip along with P7 teacher Aoibheann Kelly and quality improvement officer David Scott, added that flying to and staying in a foreign country would be an entirely new experience for some of the group.

As well as visiting their twin school in Fornacia, the pupils will also visit Pisa, Barga and Lucca.

Meanwhile, P6 and P7 pupils from St Gabriel's Primary will be continuing their work as a rights respecting school, focusing on Article 31, the right to play, on the school's second visit to their twin school, Filecchio Primary School, based in a small village just outside of Barga.

Sue Adams, principal teacher who will be joining the pupils on the trip, said: "We are planning on teaching some games that are popular in our playground and they are going to teach us some of theirs.

"Our Barga Ambassadors are very excited about this trip and are looking forward to trying out their Italian, especially our primary 7 pupils who have been learning Italian for the last two years from their teacher.

"The pupils are looking at it as a once in a lifetime experience. They've heard a lot about Barga but now they are actually going there.

"They are very much being seen as ambassadors and Italian adventurers, representing the whole school to Filecchio." As well as sharing traditional Scottish games and songs, pupils have been taking photos of their school and playground for a slideshow capturing daily life at a county school, while the pupils will also visit Pisa, Lucca and the seaside resort Viareggio as part of their Italian adventure. They will be joined by P6 teacher Lindsay Kennedy and school auxiliary Wendy Thomson.

Cockenzie Primary pupils left for Barga on Tuesday and were due to return today (Saturday), while St Gabriel's pupils are due to leave today and return on Wednesday.