If you have one day in Livorno and have not been to Tuscany before you really must go to Florence (called Firenze locally). It is one of the great cultural centers of Europe and Italy. The historic center is easily walkable. Whether you want to shop, enjoy the cuisine or view the architecture and art of the city, Florence welcomes its visitors warmly. Pisa and its famous tower get a lot of press, but Sienna and Lucca are even more interesting in my opinion. Livorno has something to offer, but only stay there if you have already visited Tuscany and Florence.
Our Azamara cruise allowed us two full days docked at Livorno, so we decided to spend some time in the historic port city and take a train to Pisa, which I had not seen before. Livorno (called Leghorn by the Brits) is a relatively new city (16th Century) established as the port by the Medicis who lead Florence during its time of pre-eminence. Livorno was a free port and people from other countries in Europe, Asia and Africa settled there to do business. Jews and Muslims had vibrant communities and there is still a rich Jewish tradition in the city.
Walking across the bridge from the port area to the city, the first thing you see is a rather strange statue of Grand Duke Fernando Medici who lead an expedition to defeat the Berbers or Barbary pirates. The statue shows a rather dapper count on a pedestal with the muscular and nearly naked pirates chained below his feet. The statue is considered a masterpiece, but for the pirates, not for Medici. Piracy was a way of life in the Mediterranean through many centuries and one not unique to North Africans. Legitimate traders were often the pirates when it was convenient.
We took a hop-on, hop-off tour of Livorno which is an inexpensive way to get an overview. Because it was a Sunday, the city market (one of Europe’s largest) was closed as were several other attractions. Also, because of recent flooding in which six people were killed, the funicular up to the top of Montenero was not operating so we were unable to visit the Shrine of our Lady of Grace – one of the area’s most popular attractions. So instead of hopping off we only hopped on. Nonetheless we enjoyed the drive along the Esplanade and hearing about the history and culture of the Livornese. East of the port area is a recreational shoreline with public spaces, marine parks and historic mansions facing the sea. We passed by the Italian Naval Academy and saw the trainees (men and women) marching. The other historic areas of the city are the Old Fortress just west of the massive port, the many canals now filled with recreational boats and the New Fortress at the center of the canal network. Some people take a short canal tour by boat.
Sunday night our cruise included a wonderful concert at the historic Goldoni Theater in Livorno featuring the Three Tenors of Florence.
On our second day, we took a pricey taxi ride to the train station – two miles for about $19 – for the 12 mile train ride to Pisa – round trip for two for about $13. Donna had taken students many times to Pisa. I can report that the tower is still leaning and a brilliant white and there is some nice shopping along Via Francesco Crispi the main road between the train station and the tower. The walk is about one and one-half miles. It is a pretty city and worth a short visit.
We got back in the early afternoon and walked back to the ship, watching the local school kids being picked up by their parents. Not far from the ship we found Volte, the restaurant in the port that our cab driver recommended. Donna ordered Lobster with pasta and a tomato sauce. I had the cacciucco (cah-chu-co) which was a spicy tomato-based fish broth with a huge portion of seafood – octopus, palombo (a small shark), mussels and langoustines. It was excellent as was the local flat bread with olive oil, salt and oregano. Donna had the Ponce afterwards – strong coffee with rum, brandy, sugar and lemon zest.
If I had it to do over again, I would do the same things, but change the order. On Sunday, we should have gone to Pisa – a tourist town where stores would have been open on Sunday. And then on Monday the Livorno market would have been open as well as other Livorno attractions. Oh well – live and learn.