Livorno, waiting to be discovered

01 LivornoThis week one of Pope Francis’ choir ‘boys’ is leading us to the discovery of the ancient free port city of Livorno.

02 Gildo Corsini

Tuscan born Ermenegildo Corsini lives and works in Rome where he is part of the renowned Sistine Chapel Choir, one of the oldest religious choirs in the world. An art lover, Ermenegildo, born in Massa under the Apuan Alps, was initially attracted to Livorno as a result of his studies of the Macchiaioli movement which in this area, and particularly along the Etruscan Coast, had its main development. The result was a particular attachment for the city where he often likes to stay in the company of “Those Cursed Tuscans” (cit. Maledetti Toscani written by Italian journalist-novelist Curzio Malaparte in 1956) that are impossible not to love. Here his introduction to this extraordinary city with an international background:

03 Terrazza MascagniThe happiest city in Tuscany, so the writer Curzio Malaparte from Prato defines Livorno in his famous book “Those Cursed Tuscans”, and really it takes just a simple walk around the Medicean town to understand how tangible and true this definition is. Off the usual beaten tracks, Livorno is certainly different from all other Tuscan cities, and as Pier Paolo Pasolini once wrote its “messy and magnificent” promenades have always a merry atmosphere, like in Southern Italy, but a merrymaking full of respect towards the festivities of others. And actually this respect for others has a historical reason in the Leggi Livornine, Laws of Livorno, of 1591 and 1593 issued by the Grand Duke of Tuscany Ferdinando I de’ Medici which turned the city of Livorno into a safe haven for many communities forced to flee their country because of racial, religious and political persecution.

04 Piazza San Jacopo di AcquavivaAs a consequence the town was suddenly full of various “nationalities”: Hebrew, Greek,  English, Dutch-German, French and Armenian. These populations contributed to both the demographic expansion and the economic and cultural growth of the city. A “new” city therefore, designed and drawn by Bernardo Buontalenti in the shape of a pentagon surrounded by moats, and today still visible despite the appalling devastation of the last world war. A city where any feudal legacy was completely absent and where everyone felt themselves at home and free because here they were never judged.

05 Piazza della Repubblica, LivornoThis is a city of sudden and vast spaces, such as Piazza della Repubblica, the square also known as the “Large Vault” because it is suspended over the canals with a single, immense vault and crowned by two gigantic statues of Grand Dukes posing magniloquently like ancient Romans. One may also come across imposing buildings such as the covered market, one of Europe’s largest, before arriving onto the celebrated Terrazza Mascagni, an immense and stylish walkway with a view over the archipelago islands. From here, the vision of a ship setting out to sea, especially at sunset, becomes together a spectacular yet poignant show.

06 la costa oltre oltre AntignanoHowever, the real strength of the city is its promenade, over seven kilometres of winding road, bursting with tamarisk scent and embellished by the magnificent Liberty style villas, some round such as the Ardenza. Along the way is a series of shacks where one can stop and taste oysters or enjoy a drink, while on the rocks it is still possible to find painters “en plein air”, a rare and touching scene.

07 antignanoAnd to conclude there is the sea; a sea, which strangely enough for a seaport, has clear waters and delightful coves and bays where to spend the day. After the beautiful outlying frazioni of Ardenza and Antignano nature takes over and the coast continues with spectacular views. Among them Cala del Leone and Cala di Calignaia, before ending up in Castiglioncello, the pearl of the Tyrrhenian Sea and renowned sea resort since the 19th century. From there begins the magnificent Etruscan Coast, another adventure.

08 cala del leone

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  1. Pingback: Twentieth-century legacy. Art and design in the Public Collections of Livorno | Tuscany Holiday rent BLOG

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