Leaving Pisa behind it was a short drive to Livorno. Well a bit longer than we imagined as we managed to miss the turn off the autostrada…. Livorno would be our base for the next week and as is our custom, we didn’t stint on the hotel which would be our home for a week. The Grand Hotel, it turned out, was easily the best hotel in Livorno, situated right on the sea front, it commanded a superb view over the promenade and the sea. Added to this we assessed the rather small rooftop pool and sun bathing area and bagged an upgraded room with a large rooftop balcony. Here I spent a lot of time staring out to sea watching the boats come and go. So why Livorno? Well, it’s the second largest city in Tuscany, it has some history and we’ve never been before! Today it’s a major commercial port feeding the west of Italy and a feeder port for cruise ships who include Florence in their itinerary.
Previously it was also a major ferry port for many of the ferry stops in the eastern Mediterranean, but latterly it has been usurped by Genoa and now serves Elba and Sardinia in the main. We had hoped to visit either of these, but both it transpired required an overnight stay, so we had no option but to cross that off the wish list. There is still an old port with a series of canals linking old commercial areas within it. These are typified by wide sloping ramps from the waters edge up to the canal side.
This facilitated the transfer of commercial goods directly from barges to the merchant’s houses, who frequently lived above their warehouses. Nowadays, many of the properties are simply houses, with a good scattering of waterside restaurants and bars. It was good to see the area being put to such good use and it had a good feel about it.
The Soundtrack of Livorno
So what was the soundtrack of Livorno? Well first it should be noted that Livorno is an Italian holiday resort, so not too many posing cars here. So if we ignored the underlying rhythm of the mosquito whine of mopeds, the basso is supplied by the harsh crack of Harley Davidsons. On more than one occasion I watched a Harley brake test an upstart SUV on the promenade before accelerating contemptuously away, exhaust barking ferociously, the rider no doubt laughing in his helmet.