Sunday, July 7, 2013


Exploring Livorno
Livorno is a quaint seaport town located on the western coast of Italy. Sound beautiful? It is. The city is filled with culture, food and exciting stops for tourists who want to do something a bit different from the usual Italian tour of Rome, Florence, or Venice, which are all located in Tuscany.

Florence actually played an important role in Livorno’s history. Florence purchased the town from the city of Genoa in the early 15th century. The location was an important strategic location for Florence to protect its maritime interests. The Medici Family controlled Livorno until its patriarch died in the mid-18th century. Another political family, the Lorraines of Austria, ruled Livorno until Napoleon took control in 1796. The Lorraine family regained power in 1800, and during their second rule the city experienced tremendous growth. In fact, some of the structures built during this period remain popular destinations for tourists in the area: the Teatro Goldoni, which underwent a massive renovation two decades ago, and the San Benedetto Church with its elaborate angel staircase. In the late 19th century, a new shipyard harnessed the economic power of this seaport town.

Places to go, things to see
A city this old has lots of stories to share. Livorno is rich in history and culture, with strong French and Italian influences present as you stroll through the streets. Here are a few things to check out while you are in town:

The Fortezza Nuova
This fort-like structure was built in the 16th century for the Medici family to protect the city from pirates. It is surrounded by canals and serves as a public park now.

Museo di Storia Naturale del MediterraneoThis natural history museum is well-regarded for its broad collection. The permanent collection’s main attraction is a 20 meter-long whale skeleton that has been named “Annie.” The museum is family-friendly, so there are activities and exhibits for guests of all ages.

Canal cruiseTravel aficionados promise this is the best way to see the city.

Mercato della VettovaglieThis open-air, covered market is a main attraction in Livorno for locals and tourists. There are more than 200 shops, featuring fresh produce, meats, and other foods and treats. You can bet on everything being fresh, too. Fish is caught fresh daily and the vegetables are brought in regularly from nearby countryside farms.

Where to stayGrand Hotel Palazzo claims to be one of the best hotels in Italy, and this might actually be true if you attention to customer reviews when you plan your travel. Guests enjoy indoor and outdoor pools, a full-service spa and breathtaking seaside views. There’s also Hotel Rex, which is located on a private beach near Castello del Boccale. There is a private beach here, so you don’t have to worry about a large crowd during primetime sunbathing hours.

Where to eatSome say Livorno has some of the most authentic Italian cuisine in the country. Antica Venezia features a handwritten menu. (Sometimes it even has specific pages folded over for recommendations!) If you go here, you should order whatever your server tells you the catch of the day is, because that’s their specialty. There’s also Osteria La Barrocciaia, a hole-in-the-wall that others say is one of the worst-kept secrets in Livorno. You will find authentic Italian dishes here, and if the place is too crowded, which it often is, at least you can get a take-away sandwich from the front of the restaurant.

There are a lot of beautiful places to see in Italy, and adding Livorno to your list is a wise choice. This port city has beautiful views and will certainly be a place of rest and relaxation as you drink local wines, eat seasonal food and enjoy the history of the streets.

Angie Picardo is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a financial literacy site dedicated to helping people explore new places on a budget and understand the difference in ETFsvs mutual funds. As an undergraduate, she spent time abroad in Florence.

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