Tuesday, December 01, 2009


Today, the first full day of our cruise, we're in Livorno.  Because it's only 82 Km from Florence , 20 Km  from Pisa and 40 Km from Lucca, most of the passengers will take advantage of the 12 hours we're docked to visit one or more of these enchanting cities. 

We, on the other hand, have a different itinerary in mind.  We plan to spend all morning just exploring the ship - I think it'll be a great time to wander around while (most) everyone else is gone.  After lunch we'll take a stroll around Livorno, which sounds rather interesting, and it's certainly not someplace we'd make a special trip to visit.  Here are some notes I've gathered about Livorno, which has some canals:

The origins of present day Livorno date back to the 15th century. A small port called Liburna existed in Roman times, built from a natural cove, which was under the domination of Pisa for all of the Middle Ages. A 1017 document mentions the presence of a castle named Livorna.

In 1421 the small port, under the reign of Genoa, was sold to Florence, at that time undergoing major expansion and needing an efficient outlet at the sea. From this time on Livorno was ruled by the Medici family who for more than three centuries transformed the small village into one of the most important ports of the Mediterranean. At the end of the 16th century Francesco I assigned Buontalenti with the task of making Livorno a full-fledged city and he made it able to house 20,000 people inside the walls and 300 ships in the port.

This was the origin of the oldest part of Livorno, a fortified city with a pentagonal shape surrounded by navigable canals, the Fossi Medicei, and cut down the middle by the present day Via Grande. The main sights of Livorno are concentrated inside the Medici part of the city.

 Fortezza Vecchia (Old Fortress) is an impressive pentagonal fortress surrounded by moats, built in the 16th century to defend the Medici port. It contains a medieval (11th century) keep and cylindrical tower. The fortress is enclosed by powerful ramparts reinforced in the 19th century to house artillery.

Venezia Nuova is a charming quarter filled with canals, islands and bridges, many from the 17th century, which was designed in the same century to house the mercantile class. The network of streets and canals was designed so that goods could be easily transported to and from the nearby port. The dwellings of the quarter perfectly met the trade and living needs, and concealed elegant buildings divided into apartments, which contained warehouses on the first floor. These buildings can be best seen in the centrally located Via Borra, one of the prettiest streets of the city.

This will just be the first of several new cities we'll discover along the way.  Tomorrow, Villefranche and Nice, France!

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