Although not one of the most populous, Livorno is one of the most important cities in Italy and is the capital of the Province of Livorno. Its main source of economy is its huge port and Livorno indeed has the third largest port in the country. Furthermore, its port plays host to a variety of cruise ships that dock and offer their guests a chance to see mainland Italy.
The region of Livorno has shown signs of inhabitation since the Neolithic period and due to its coastal location in central Italy, it has always been an important city. During the Renaissance and the rule of the Medici family, Livorno was fortified and received many towers, forts and city walls to aid its defence. Much of these defences remain today and you can still see the pentagonal shape of the old historic city center.
As time progressed, the city expanded and today it has a beautiful contrast of old and new, together with the industrial nature of the port. Although many people pass through Livorno to get to Pisa, it is a fantastic destination in its own right and has a great deal of historical sites and beautiful coastline that are waiting to be explored.
Here are the best things to do in Livorno:
1. Fortezza Nuova
Constructed in the mid to late 1500’s, the New Fort was an addition to the defences of Livorno and served as a second fortification in conjunction with the old fort.
Featuring a typical pentagonal style with a series of pointed battlements, the fort is an imposing structure that is surrounded on all sides by the canal.
Surrounded by ancient walls, much of the defensive features stand intact such as the gun ports, whilst in the centre of the fort is a beautiful garden and grounds.
Today it is possible to walk through the grounds, explore several of the forts passages, and walk the battlements for beautiful views of the canals and the city.
2. Livorno Port
The port of Livorno is a truly impressive and monumental site and it is one of the busiest and most productive ports in Italy.
Stretching from the quiet harbour at the Livorno Aquarium, to the opening of the canal that eventually joins to the river Arno, the port has a mix of commercial shipping and recreational cruise terminals.
Walking through this gigantic port provides a fascinating opportunity to see how something of this magnitude operates, but also see the monolithic cruise ships as they dock and offload their thousands of passengers eager to explore.
3. Nuova Venezia
The area surrounding the Fortezza Nuova is lovingly known as Nuova Venezia (New Venice), and this is due to the numerous canals that line the streets.
Starting at the Scali delle Ancore, you can walk around the central canal and across the bridge on Via della Venezia; from here you can admire the beautiful waterways and small sailing boats that line the canals.
Continue towards the Scali del Reugio and see the stunning Chiesa di Santa Caterina before heading on to the Fortezza Nuova.
There are numerous streets and canals to explore, but this whle area has a charming feel and is a truly magical place to explore.
4. Via Grande
This wide and important street runs from the roundabout next to the port, through to the impressive Piazza della Repubblica.
Down this stretch of road, you will find a series of shops and restaurants, but also several important structures and squares.
At the western end of the Via is the Monumento dei Quattro Mori, whilst in the centre is the Piazza Grande which contains the Cattedrale di San Francesco.
As the centre of Livorno, the Via Grande is a great starting point for a tour of the city centre.
5. Terrazza Mascagni
As Livorno sits on the coast, it stands to reason that it has several areas of promenade that offer amazing coastal views.
The Terrazza Mascagni is one such place and is a favourite haunt of both locals and tourists.
Located to the south of the main commercial port area of Livorno, the Terrace juts out into the sea and has a beautiful stone paved walkway that curves for some 500m.
Furthermore, the Livorno Aquarium can be found here, and there is also a series of shaded areas covered by trees, and a delightful pavilion.
The Terrazza Mascagni offers the perfect place to watch the sunset and have a leisurely walk in the evening.
6. Via Italia
For fantastic sea views and a breath of invigorating sea air, the Via Italia is the perfect place to walk on a sunny morning.
Stretching from the start of the port, right through to the Parco Bartolini, this road passes some amazing coastal scenery and gives you the chance to gaze out into the Ligurian Sea and marvel at the architecture of Livorno.
The most beautiful stretch can be found near the Ardenza Harbour – Here you will pass by small fishing boats and onto the stunning landscaped area of Parco Bartolini.
Along the way, you can find a number of bars and restaurants that offer fine Italian cuisine.
7. Mercato Centrale
If you are looking for a slice of local life, the Mercato Centrale is the best place to visit.
Located on the Scali Aurelio Staffi, the enormous building stands out amidst the surrounding structures and packed within is a plethora of market stalls.
The sights, sounds and smells of this place are simply divine and you will literally not know which way to look.
Inside you can find 34 shops and over 200 different stalls that sell anything from meat, poultry, eggs, ham, cheese, bread and wine.
Aside from the main hall, there is also an outdoor area thast sells a variety of clothing, accessories and other locally sourced items.
8. Piazza della Repubblica
Livorno has several impressive historical squares, but the Piazza della Repubblica is by far the most grand.
You can find this enormous square on the edge of the Fortezza Nuova canal running parallel to the Via Giuseppe Garibaldi.
Shaped in a large oval design, two ornate marble statues stand guard at either end of the square and the surrounding buildings feature a beautiful array of colours and styles.
Several fascinating art galleries can be found here, together with a host of restaurants and seating areas – this is a great place to relax and soak up some culture and quiet.
9. Day trip to Pisa
Pisa is one of the main reasons that people visit Livorno, and it is often used as a gateway to hop onto this famous city and then ultimately Florence.
Whilst Livorno is an amazing tourist destination in its own right, Pisa does make for a wonderful day trip and who could really pass up on the chance to see the Iconic leaning tower? Aside from the legendary Campanile, the Piazza dei Miracoli is full of historical buildings such as the Pisa Baptistery and the Pisa Cathedral.
Furthermore attractions such as the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo, the Museo Nazionale and the Palazzo dei Cavalieri are just as interesting as the tower and offer a fantastic look at the history of Pisa.
10. Museo Civico
Located withing the historical Villa Mimbelli and surrounded by some stunning gardens, the Museo Civivo was opened in 1994 and has a rich collection of artworks and artefacts.
Split into three separate floors, the museum houses works from notable artists including Giovanni Fattori and other Macchialiolo collegiate.
Spanning several hundred years of history, the collection offer a fascinating insight into various forms of artistry and painting styles and is a great place to visit for any art lover.
11. Meloria Islands
Located approximately 6.1km off the west coast of Livorno, Meloria is a series of rocky islands that are host to some interesting structures.
Since 2010, this area has been a protected reserve and is a popular place for swimming, diving and relaxing in the Ligurian sea.
The two islands are tiny but both have a structure on – the southern island there is a modern lighthouse, whilst on the northern island, there is an old tower that was built in the 1500’s.
Hire a boat from the port of Livorno and sail out here – you can sunbathe on the rocks or take part in a little scuba diving in the clear and relatively shallow waters.
12. Chiesa di San Ferdinando
Livorno has several beautiful churches and the Chiesa di San Ferdinando is one of the most well known and a fine example of Baroque architecture.
Located on the Via della Venezia near the port and the historical Nuova Venezia, the church features a plain exterior design with an unfinished front facade.
The interior however is a total contrast and features some absolutely stunning Baroque designs.
A central basilica is detailed with ornate artwork and the columns and arches are lined with stucco decoration.
Furthermore, the marble floor features a beautiful pattern and the central altar has a myriad of sculptures and religious reliefs.
13. Fortezza Vecchia
More commonly known as the old fort, this fantastic structure was constructed by Antonio da Sangallo for the Medici family during the early 1500’s.
Located on the port and harbour region of Livorno, together with the Fortezza Nuova, this defensive structure has stood proud for hundreds of years as a symbol of power of the city.
Open to the public, the fort and its grounds can be explored and the battlements and towers offer fantastic views of the port and harbour.
Furthermore, inside the grounds is the small but beautiful church of San Francisco that was added in later years.
14. Montenero Funicular Railway
To the south of Livorno is the small town of Montenero that climbs up the side of the sprawling hills.
Here you can find a charming funicular railway that has operated for many years and snakes some 500m to the fantastic Santuario della Madonna della Grazie.
This religious sanctuary features some wonderful architecture and offers fantastic views across to the coast.
Furthermore, there are several restaurants, bars and market stalls all surrounded by charming small buildings.
Montenero provides an escape from the tourists, and the chance to see a traditional Italian town in all it splendour.
15. Calafuria coast
Approximately 25-30 minutes to the south of Livorno, along the SS1 highway lies the charming coastal town of Calafuria.
Calafuria itself doesn’t have a great deal to offer except several campsites and beach resorts; what it does have however is a stretch of stunning coast line that is packed full of delightful rocky alcoves and hidden beaches.
If you park next to the old Torre di Calafuria, you can scramble down onto the rocks and start exploring – the locals often travel from Livorno to relax here and escape the tourists and you can find many people simply sunbathing on the rocks.
The scenery is fantastic, and the rock pools and stretches of coast are simply sublime.