Today my quest was to catch the train to Livorno, sometimes known as Leghorn, the second largest city in Tuscany, that was rebuilt after heavy bombing during World War II. During my short walk to Pisa Central train station, I admired the adaptability of the street hawkers. One minute they’re trying to sell you watches and sunglasses, then as soon as there’s the first sighting of even the tiniest cloud in the sky, these disappear to be replaced by umbrellas for sale. As I have a fear of umbrellas, having them shoved in my face by people trying to get me to buy one every few yards isn’t the most comfortable experience for me. Before you say it, no, my fear is not irrational. The spiky bits on the end of umbrellas really hurt if they poke you in the eye, and my hair always gets caught in the metal workings. I battled my way through and made my way onto the train to Livorno.
In stark contrast to the old, traditional winding streets of Pisa and Lucca, Livorno is a very modern, metropolitan city. This is probably due to the extent that it was rebuilt after the war.
One part of the city that thankfully survived the bombings is the area known as ‘Piccola Venezia’, or ‘Little Venice’. With its small canals running between the streets and under petite bridges, Little Venice brings a real charm to Livorno. The centre piece of the Piccola Venezia area is the Fortezza Nuova, a massive fort built for the Medici family in the late 16th century. The inside of the fort is now a park, although unfortunately I couldn’t get in to the park because of building works at the entrance. Building works seemed to be following me everywhere this week! Not everything was working against me, though. The sun came out as I was walking around the outside of the fort.
Fortezza Vecchia, on the waterfront, is also known as ‘The Old Fort’ and was constructed 60 years earlier than Fortezza Nuova on the site of an 11th century building. When Cosimo, the first Grand-Duke of Tuscany, began the plans for building the port of Livorno, he had a palace built for himself inside the fort so he could keep an eye on things. The building was also used as a prison during the 1800s.