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8 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Livorno

Most tourists arrive in Livorno (which the British, for some reason, call Leghorn) by sea, on the many cruise ships that call here as the nearest port to the splendors of Pisa. But despite heavy bombardment in World War II, Livorno has its own attractions. Its history parallels that of nearby Pisa in many ways, but its fortunes rose as Pisa's port silted up, and Livorno, only 20 kilometers to the south, became its window to the sea. It fell to Florence at the same time as Pisa, when the Medici bought them from Genoa, and like Pisa benefited from the Medici's fortifications and construction of the new harbor. Livorno was the birthplace of the painter Amedeo Modigliani (1844-1920) and the composer Pietro Mascagni (1863-1945).

1 The Port

The Port
The Port Robert Pittman / photo modified
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The port, at the west end of the old town, is one of the largest in the Mediterranean and a busy place with a constant stream of shipping coming and going. Along with an active schedule of Mediterranean cruise ships docking and departing, the harbor is active with boat services and car ferries to Elba and other islands in the Arcipélago Toscano (Tuscan Archipelago), as well as to Sardinia and the French island of Corsica. The old part of the port is known, after its Medici founders, as the Porto Mediceo. Tall-ship fans will notice the masts of the Italian naval training vessel Amerigo Vespucci, whose home port is in Livorno. When it is not on its training cruises, which are usually July through September, you can board the ship for tours.

2 Fortezza Vecchia (Old Fortress)

Fortezza Vecchia (Old Fortress)
Fortezza Vecchia (Old Fortress)
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At the north end of the old port area, Fortezza Vecchia was built by Antonio da Sangallo for Cardinal Giulio de' Médici between 1521 and 1534. It is dominated by a round tower known as the Mástio di Matilde, part of an earlier 11th-century castle and Livorno's oldest remaining structure from the early Middle Ages. The Medici fort also incorporated a crenellated area that was added in the 14th century. The little church of San Francesco inside the fortress was built in 1530. The fortress is usually open for tours, when you can climb to the top of the Mástio di Matilde for views of the port and city.

3 Nuova Venezia (New Venice)

Nuova Venezia (New Venice)
Nuova Venezia (New Venice)
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In the 1620s, when Livorno needed to expand to accommodate a growing population, a new district was planned for the area between the old and new fortresses. But the area was laced with moats that had surrounded the old city walls, and had since become important waterways to move goods between the port and warehouses alongside them. So the architect borrowed building techniques from Venice, leading to this neighborhood's name, meaning new Venice. You can tour this picturesque neighborhood on a boat tour that circles the Fortezza Nuova - the new fort - and follows the canal underneath the Piazza della Repubblica. Explore on foot to discover the Church of Santa Caterina, with beautiful early 17th-century wood choir stalls and a large altar piece, Coronation of the Virgin, by Giorgio Vasari.

4 Via Grande

Via Grande
Via Grande
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Livorno's main street, Via Grande draws a wide straight line from the harbor, across the Piazza Grande to the broad Piazza della Repubblica, with statues of Ferdinand III (d. 1824) and Leopold II (d. 1870), the last Grand Dukes of Tuscany. In Piazza Micheli, which opens on to the harbor, is a monument to Grand Duke Ferdinand I (1587-1609). It's popularly known as the Monumento dei Quattro Mori (Monument of the Four Moors) after the four bronze figures on the base. The central feature of the old town is the long Piazza Grande, where you'll find the cathedral, built between 1594 and 1606 to the design of Bernardo Buontalenti and Alessandro Pieroni. After its destruction during World War II, it was rebuilt in its original form. Inside are ceiling-frescoes by Iácopo Ligozzi, Passignano, and Iácopo da Émpoli (all 16th-17th century), as well as a gilded reliquary.

5 Terrazza Mascagni

Terrazza Mascagni
Terrazza Mascagni Paolo / photo modified
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This wide promenade along the waterfront at the southern part of town overlooks the Tyrrhenian Sea and is a favorite spot for locals to stroll and meet in good weather, as well as for joggers and runners. On the Terrazza Mascagni is the Acquario Comunale (Municipal Aquarium) and an institute of marine biology, and beyond this, the seafront promenade passes the Accadémia Navale (Naval Academy).

Popular Tours

6 Viale Italia and Beaches

Viale Italia and Beaches
Viale Italia and Beaches
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From the end of Livorno's waterfront, the beautiful Viale Italia runs south along the coast with a succession of views of the Tyrrhenian Sea. Along it are parks and beautiful beaches, which begin at the outskirts of the city. Walking paths lead to secluded coves and scenic headlands. Between Livorno and Piombino a route called the Strada del Vino Costa degli Etruschi is not actually a route, but a consortium of farms and small artisanal businesses specializing in local delicacies - olive oil, fruits and berries, almonds, as well as fresh-baked Tuscan breads. These are signposted, or you can follow a map to find them. You can visit, sample, and buy, perhaps stopping for a farm-fresh meal in a rustic agritourist osteria as you explore the coast.

7 Museo Civico Giovanni Fattori

The Museo Civico is in the Villa Mimbelli, in the southern part of the new town, and contains works by the Macchiaioli, a group of Tuscan painters formed in the mid-19th century with the principal aim of overcoming academic restrictions that crimped their more impressionist styles. This movement was led by Giovanni Fattori, whose paintings hang on the upper floor - look especially for his best-known work, Mandrie Maremmane, featuring white Maremma cattle. Vittorio Corcos portrays Livorno's own composer Pietro Mascagni, and the collection highlight is Stradina Toscana, by Amedeo Modigliani, another Livorno native. Not the least reason for visiting the museum is to tour the 19th-century Villa Mimbelli itself, with frescoes by Annibale Gatti, a magnificent staircase, and quiet gardens.

Address: Via San Jacopo in Acquaviva 65, Livorno

8 Mercato Centrale (Central Market)

For a slice of local life and color, don't miss Livorno's Central Market, near Piazza Cavour in a late-19th-century building designed by Angiolo Badaloni. Every morning except Sunday, the main food hall is a riot of activity as locals fill their shopping bags with food from more than 200 stalls and shops. You can sample local cheeses and salamis, and stock up for picnics on the beach. Small stalls inside serve fresh-ground coffee and breakfast pastries. Adjacent to the market is an equally lively and colorful outdoor farmers' market.

Address: Via Buontalenti, Livorno

Where to Stay in Livorno for Sightseeing

Because Livorno is not a big center for tourists, it doesn't have the high hotel concentration of most Italian cities. But it is a good choice for visiting the attractions of more crowded Pisa, a short train ride north, or driving through the beautiful Tuscan hills. Also convenient for touring are the beach resort of Tirrenia or one of the beautiful hill villages to the south. Here are some highly-rated hotels in Livorno:

  • Luxury Hotels: On the wide seafront promenade of Terrazza Mascagni Paolo, old-fashioned NH Livorno Grand Hotel Palazzo has a pool, free parking, and a breakfast room with sea views. Overlooking the harbor, just off Gran Via and close to Fortezza Vecchia and to Fortezza Nuova, attractive, old-style Hotel Gran Duca is especially convenient to Sardinia or Corsica ferries. At the beach in Tirrenia and an easy bus ride to both Pisa and Livorno, Grand Hotel Continental has spacious rooms and a pool.
  • Mid-Range Hotels: On Viale Italia, near the civic and natural history museums and aquarium, Hotel Gennarino is an elegant villa with parquet floors, a marble staircase, and large rooms. Parking is free, and the hotel offers an abundant breakfast buffet. Boutique Hotel Universal has sea-view rooms in a newly restored villa with a pool and restaurant, a few miles from downtown Livorno on a direct bus line. Offering breakfast in a shaded garden, the lovely, family-run Al Teatro is on a quiet street, a 10-minute walk from the harbor.
  • Budget Hotels: High on a hill overlooking the sea, a 20-minute drive from Livorno's ferry port, boutique Hotel La Vedetta is beside the 16th-century Santuario di Montenero in a typical Tuscan village with restaurants. The modern Hotel Stazione is opposite the train station and a 25-minute walk from central Livorno. With simple rooms; free breakfast; and fast, free internet, Hotel Navy is a short walk from museums, the aquarium, and the Terrazza Mascagni promenade.

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