I left my heart
In the port of Livorno.
The lights alight on the sea,
It was a strange day,
I refused to believe they were fishing lights. [Piero Ciampi]
Livorno, Italy is famous for its cruise port and its fascinating connection with the Livorno sea. Besides being the starting point for the Tuscan Archipelago islands, it is the third largest populated city of the Tuscany region, after Florence and Prato. The Livorno tourist attractions are strongly linked to the beaches along the coast and the presence of ferries to and from Sardinia and Corsica.
Livorno, Italy, however, is not only a port: you will also be surprised by its rich history, its unique atmosphere that differs a lot from the other cities in Tuscany.
Discovering Livorno means strolling along the canals in the neighbourhood of Venezia Nuova, stopping at a restaurant to eat fish, enjoying the sunset on the horizon of Livorno sea. If you are looking for a picture different to that of a medieval village, here you will have a unique feature of a Tuscan seaside town. Before we tell you what to see in Livorno, we will give you some reference points...
Livorno things to do include the west coast, touched by the Ligurian Sea, and the north and east areas, which are surrounded by the provinces of Pisa and Grosseto. The province of Livorno includes five of the Tuscan archipelago islands: Elba, Capraia, Pianosa, Montecristo and Gorgona.
During your holidays, Livorno will appear as a city atypical of Tuscany. Its modern appearance is due to its reconstruction during the post-war period: the city suffered serious damage due to continuous and massive bombing during the Second World War. With regards to the traces of the cosmopolitan past of Livorno, things to see include museums and churches that will give you a sense of how many different ethnic groups have lived in this city and of the cultural climate that one could breathe in the city until the 19th century.
HISTORY. The name Livorno comes from the Latin Labro, labronis (literally 'lip' to indicate the end of a sea resort) and its origins date back to Roman times. The first evidence we have is that of Cicerone (first century B.C.) who, in a letter to his brother Quintus, cites the territory of Labrone (still using the adjective 'labronico' as a synonym for 'Livorno'!).
However, it must immediately be clarified that the special environmental conditions did not give rise to a real city until the time of the Medici. The area was, for a long time, only a landing point because of the continuous raids from the sea and the inconvenience caused by the swamps that surrounded Livorno. Livorno monuments do not include medieval buildings! The entire province of Livorno, Italy map such as Cecina, was formed by ponds and afflicted by malaria: it was not possible, therefore, to create new settlements and villages.
In a way, Livorno entered the course of history when it was tied to the city of Pisa. In 1052, in fact, Livorno had ended in the hands of Matilda of Canossa who later, in 1103, relinquished it to Pisa. With the famous Battle of Meloria (1284) Pisa suffered a terrible defeat by the Genoese: thereby the primacy of Pisa on the seas went into decline and consequently the development of Livorno stopped.
In memory of this famous battle, one should discover the Meloria Shoals; from the coast, you will be able to see the lighthouse and the Tower, wonderful monuments of the sea! It is a marine protected area that is home to incredible sea floors considered underwater archaeological museums ... if you like snorkelling and diving do not miss this opportunity!
In the past Livorno in Italy was repeatedly involved in numerous conflicts between Genoa and Pisa, and was often the spoils of war, constantly sold and repurchased.
During the following centuries Livorno, Italy represented a real bargaining power: in 1399 Gherardo Appiani, Lord of Pisa and Piombino, relinquished it to the Visconti of Milan, itlater went to the French and then Genoa (1407), so that in 1421 it was sold to Florence for one hundred thousand gold florins. Thereby giving the Florentines access to the sea and a new military and commercial rule from which to benefit!
Cosimo I de' Medici turned it into a Medicean port for international trade and thus he gave a boost to the development of Livorno. In particular, it was Ferdinando I dei' Medici who generated the strongest momentum for the birth of the city and its economic and political prestige. At the end of the 16th century, during the period from 1591 to 1592, the ‘Livornina law' was issued which invited all the people out of the peninsula to live in the city. The law guaranteed tax exemptions and privileges on some serious convictions excluding those of heresy, false currency, murder and treason. Suddenly, the city found itself immersed in an atmosphere of religious tolerance and took a cosmopolitan character, rich in different cultures.
Among the ethnic groups who settled there were Jewish, Armenian, English, Greek and German and others were free to preserve their customs and to profess their beliefs through the ownership of land for places of worship and cemeteries. Imagine the good fortune to receive and to live in the same space with different doctrines ...
Livorno monuments offer the traces of its glorious past (synagogues, cemeteries) in which it had given hospitality to religious or political persecuted people, creating a place made of different traditions. For at least two centuries this situation lasted, which offered significant developments to the economy of the city and its cultural heritage. The event continued with the Risorgimento and the Unification of Italy, when Livorno became the Livorno, Italy cruise port for the Tuscan region and no longer a free zone harbour and home to foreign consulates.
World War II caused the almost total destruction of the city and the loss of many monuments and treasures of art and culture with more than 100 bombings.
THINGS TO DO IN LIVORNO. After the history of Livorno, we should also tell you what the best things to do in Livorno, Italy are; also what to eat, the customs, the Livorno places to visit, and finally why there are no Romanesque churches like in Pisa.
The charm of this city lies, in fact, in its multi-ethnic past rich in minority groups. As you walk along its streets, try to fantasize and think about how it was normal to be in the middle of a group of Jews, Turks, Armenians. The travellers of the 17th century, the era of the Grand Tour, described this Italian city as an open, modern and lively place!
If you only have a limited time and can only visit Livorno, Italy in one day, you will still discover many interesting Livorno sights. Starting with the most representative Livorno monuments, there are some finds of Etruscan and Roman remains, as well as traces of its medieval past. The rule of the Medici is the one that left a greater mark on this city: the pentagonal shape of the urban plan, the Medici Palace and the beautiful Piazza Grande, surrounded by arches. Livorno was designed in the Renaissance period by Bernardo Buontalenti who designed this particular form which is surrounded by walls and the Medicean Fossi.
We recommend visiting the New Fortress and the Porto Mediceo to observe the famous monument to Ferdinand I by Giovanni Bandini and Pietro Tacca, best known as the Four Moors, since it depicts four figures of pirates in chains. Finally, we suggest a visit to the Cisternone, a neoclassical and rich in history underground reservoir. These are the most representative and important things to do in Livorno; not forgetting the picturesque district of New Venice, suspended over water.
The period of the Livornine laws has left many cultural places of worship as a legacy of the ethnic groups hosted by the city during the 18th century and beyond. Livorno sightseeing must include a visit to the Synagogue, the Greek Church and the United Church of St. Gregorio (Armenian) in addition to the Cathedral of St. Francesco of the 16th century. It is not often that one can find so many testimonies of the past of different religions in the same city! If you have time and are curious to explore this particular aspect of Livorno, Italy you will find the English Cemetery (one of the oldest in the Mediterranean and Italy) and also a Greek-orthodox one too.
Livorno city sightseeing also boasts an interesting natural history museum of the Mediterranean, the Jewish Museum and the Civic Museum "Giovanni Fattori", dedicated in particular to the movement of Macchiaioli and the figure of Giovanni Fattori. Important artists of Livorno, include Amedeo Modigliani and if desired, you can also visit his birthplace.
The top things to do in Livorno, Italy with children as suggested by us at toscanainside.com include a visit to the communal Aquarium near the Mascagni Terrace. The restoration of this historic aquarium were recently completed and today it is one of the largest in Italy: you'll meet with sharks, turtles and fascinating jellyfish!
The main events of the city include: the Premio Ciampi (music contest for emerging artists) and, among the Livorno places to visit in the summer, the Effetto Venice event: rich in shows and flea markets along the canals of the historic district of New Venice.
WHAT TO EAT IN LIVORNO. The cuisine of Livorno, Italy has a common basis with other locations in the region, but its most famous dish is cacciucco (fish soup): the name derives from 'shakshuklì', or 'mix'. There are many different species of fish that can be used (for example, tub gurnard, conger eels, gobies, red mullet, scorpion fish, cuttlefish, octopus, lobsters, etc.) that give it a very distinctive and recognizable sea flavour. Its base is made with fried onions, oil and chili, peeled tomatoes, garlic and red wine. The fish is cooked in this preparation and creates a soup which is then served with toasted bread rubbed with a clove of garlic.
In addition to this soup, you will find cod and mullet specialities! Some preparations are of Jewish origin, like stuffed artichokes, the cuscussù (couscous), Mosaic mullet, the roschette (similar to bagels) and spun eggs (traditional dessert). If you are not a big fan of fish you can choose between a few dishes like panzanella, lamb in fricassee or Livorno meatballs. For dessert you can choose between ricotta briaa ('drunk'), stiacciata alla livornese (crushed), sweet buns (bolli), frati (fried donuts) and castagnaccio…the true delights of Livorno! If you hear someone order a '5 e 5', he is not trying to win the lottery, but wants a sandwich with chickpea cake (torta di ceci) ... Be careful not to compare this dish to the Pisan cecina ... as there is some animosity between the two cities!
Visiting Livorno cannot end without a taste of the legendary punch! This traditional drink, of English origin, is based on coffee and rum or other fragrant spirits.
LIVORNO THINGS TO SEE AND ITS SURROUNDINGS. Livorno, Italy beaches were developed in the late 19th century, following the creation of famous factories scattered along the coast such as: San Vincenzo, Rosignano and Cecina. The city was also enhanced by the presence of the beautiful Montenero Sanctuary, dedicated to Madonna delle Grazie. Among the other Livorno things to see there is also the New American Market in the Marittima Station: this is a fun market which sells vintage clothing and much more!
From the Livorno, Italy cruise port it is possible to take a tour dedicated to the cities of art such as Florence, Lucca and Siena! If you are looking for nature, the magnificent Val di Cornia is nearby, surrounded by parks, and protected areas close to the sea. In addition, there are beautiful Livorno beaches in Piombino from where you can sail to the islands!
LIVORNESE DIALECT. The Tuscan dialect spoken in Livorno is very exhilarating and full of irony, as you will quickly learn. If you are interested to know Livorno and its idioms, buy yourself a copy of the legendary magazine 'The vernacular' it will be fun...!
CURIOSITY '& CELEBRITIES. Livorno, Italy is home to many celebrities and artists. Among classical composers is Pietro Mascagni, but more recently songwriter Piero Ciampi, Nada and Roberto 'Bobo' Rondelli. In addition, the multi-ethnic nature of the city and its ongoing relationship with different nationalities gave life during the 20th century to a very active jazz scene.
Moving away from music to poetry, Livorno was the birthplace of the great poet Giorgio Caproni. The collection Livornesi Verses is considered as one of the highest levels of Italian poetry works of the 20th century. In the Last Prayer the poet describes his beloved city.
Livorno attractions also include a city closely tied to the cinema. In 1926 some scenes of Ben Hur were shot at Meloria and also Luchino Visconti used it in 1957, as a setting for the film 'White Nights', in the district of New Venice. The overtaking, Dino Risi's masterpiece of 1962 was filmed, with Vittorio Gassman and Jean-Louis Trintignant. Many scenes have been shot in Livorno and Calafuria. The link between this city and the film industry has continued until today: among contemporary directors, Paolo Virzì here in his hometown, shot Ovosodo (1997) and The First Beautiful Thing (2009).
Visiting Livorno, Italy: Let yourself be overwhelmed by the speech, the surreal scenarios and its maritime climate, a different Tuscan city in so many ways and for this reason, very interesting!
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