When visitors choose places to visit in Italy, Livorno is not usually on the “must see” list. Livorno lacks the allure of the Cinque Terre or more well-known parts of Tuscany, so tourists often pass (or cruise) right past it. But Livorno is a bustling city with a long history and unique sights; it is definitely worth a visit.
Livorno sits on the western coast of Tuscany, right on the Mediterranean. It’s a big port and a favorite spot for cruise ships to dock. While cruise ships stop here, they often point their passengers to excursions in Pisa, Florence, Lucca, San Gimignano, or the Tuscan countryside, missing the city of Livorno itself. This is unfortunate, for there are interesting things to see and do here - starting with the many ships in the port.
Also, consider the two fortresses, Fortezza Vecchia (the old fort) and Fortezza Nuova (new fort). With the “new fort” built in the 1600s, you can bet there is some interesting history to be discovered.
Then there is Venezia Nuova (New Venice) – a series of man-made canals connecting the port to the city. Though built for practical reasons (to transport goods,) the canals today are beautiful, going from the sea port, past the fortezzas, and by churches, shops, and beautiful palazzi.
A boat tour through the canal is the best way to see Venezia Nuova. One stretch of the boat trip passes beneath the Piazza della Republica – a broad piazza that also serves as a bridge over the canal. As you pass through the tunnel under the piazza, be sure to look up to where light comes through a series of ornate grates and later stand in the piazza and look down through the grates at the boats passing beneath. Quite the cleaver design!
If you love Italian food, then be sure to stop by the old market. This is an indoor space with fascinating architecture. There are fish stalls with an amazing variety of seafood. There are also stalls offering veggies, grains, cheeses, etc.
For an authentic taste of Livorno, sample the cecina (a crisp flatbread made from ground chickpeas) in a nearby bakery and stop for a lunch or dinner of local fish.
For more local flavor, sip a Ponce. This is a drink unique to Livorno – espresso, rum, sugar, lemon peel – served hot. It’s sure to give you extra energy for sightseeing in this interesting city.
The best spot for strolling along the sea in Livorno is the Terrazza Mascagni, a paved promenade that fronts the sea, offering spectacular views of sea and city. Its long balustrade overlooks the rocky beaches and offers long views out to the Mediterranean Sea. This is the lively place for a passaggiata (evening stroll) in Livorno, a drive farther south provides stunning sea cliff views. I'm so glad I had the chance to explore this interesting city! -post by JMB