I am Linda and along with my husband Richard and our dog Muffin we enjoy our summers on the UK's canal system

Monday, 24 September 2018

Western Mediterranean Cruise - Day 8 Livorno

We woke up in Livorno in not the most salubrious surroundings of the commercial port and as, it is rather a long walk to the entrance, shuttle buses had been laid on to take us into town.

Penny had gone to Florence and Pisa so the three of us took the shuttle bus and then a boat on the canal network.

Livorno’s history is long - it was founded in 1017 as a coastal fortress to defend Pisa which, at that time, was one of the four Maritime Republics in Italy. During the Middle Ages, Livorno belonged to Genoa and then they sold it to Florence in 1421 for the sum of 100,000 florins.

Along the 15th Century, 5 kilometres of canals are an array of wonderful mansions which were built for rich merchants in the 17th Century.

Livorno suffered extensive damage during the World War II. Many historic sites and buildings were destroyed by bombs of the Allies preceding their invasion, including the cathedral and the synagogue.

The Church of Saint Caterina is Baroque - its dome is 207 feet high making it higher than the Leaning Tower of Pisa.  The church was built from 1720 to 1753 and was opened to public in 1753 even though it wasn’t quite finished. 

The Central Market - Il Mercato Centrale or Mercato delle Vettovaglie as it is traditionally known - is one of the highlights of the city. The huge building, one of the oldest markets in Europe, dates from the late 19th century. The market is open every morning from Monday to Saturday.  There are 34 shops and 230 stalls which sell meat, eggs, poultry, ham, cheese, bread, wine, and a whole variety of intriguing foodstuffs.

The lighthouse is called Fanale dei Pisani, as it was built by the Pisans in 1303.  It was built on a rock surrounded by the sea at the south entrance of the harbour.  On June 20th 1944 German troops, when they saw the Allies approaching, blew up it. It was rebuilt in June 1954 to the original specifications with material recovered from the ruins and from a cave.  It was inaugurated on September 16th 1956.

Livorno has two fortresses, the old and the new.  Fortezza Vecchia (old fortress) was built between 1519 and 1534 on the site of an even older fortress built by the Pisans in 1377.  On 19th March 1606, Ferdinando I proclaimed Livorno a "city" in a ceremony which took place inside the fortress. The population of the city at the time was 3,000 inhabitants.  The old fortress sustained extensive damage in World War II but was subsequently repaired.

Decades after the construction of the old fort, around 1589, Livorno's fortifications were further enhanced by building a new fortress. The new fortress was named Fortezza Nuova. A canal system was built to connect the two forts.  

This is the Four Moors statue which was built between 1623 and 1626 by Pietro Tacca, it is a monument that show four bronze Moors in chains at the base of a pedestal, where a marble statue of the Grand Duke Ferdinand I stands. The statue is a symbol of victory over the pirates in the Tuscan seas.

This is the Palazza Hotel which was built in 1884.  However in 1889, following a bankruptcy, it was closed.  A new reopening took place in 1904 but since then, due to growing tourist competition the hotel suffered a slow decline. In fact, after the damage suffered during the WWII it was no longer able to reach the glories of the past.  In 1997, following a further bankruptcy, the hotel was closed and substantially abandoned. After some changes of ownership in 2004 the entrepreneur Andrea Bulgarella started massive restoration work aimed at bringing the structure back to its original condition. The works were completed in the summer of 2008.

In the afternoon we took the hop on hop off bus and stopped at the Funicular that goes up to Montenegro (Black Mountain).  It would appear that the Funicular is unmanned.  The bus driver gave us each a ticket which we put into a machine, got onto the “train”, the doors shut and off we went (no photos I’m afraid). At the top we didn’t see anyone either.  It was inaugurated on 19th August 1908 and was the first electric railway of its kind in Italy. Until 1963, it represented the main means of transport for Montenero.  There are two trains running up and down the 656m track, each one capable of carrying 40 passengers. They can transport up to 580 people per hour.  One of the most interesting and innovative aspects of Montenero's funicular railway is that it runs on solar power, the panels having been installed in 2000.  The view from the top is wonderful.

We found a bar and had a rather strange flat bread filled with ham and cheese - it was rather tough but washed down by a beer it was fine.  We were amazed by the amount of fire brigade vehicles there were in the little village - I counted 12.  We could hear a lot of laughter coming from the top room at the bar then suddenly the village was overrun by men and women, some in uniform and some in civvies.  We assumed it was some sort of presentation as there were some very well dressed gentlemen amongst the crowd.

We had gone up the mountain to see the Montero Santuary but all we found was a square with lots of chairs in it.  The complex, elevated to the rank of Basilica and maintained by Vallumbrosan monks, is devoted to Our Lady of Grace of Montenero, patron saint of Tuscany. 

Back at the ship we watched the sail away from our balconies and saw the pilot boat coming alongside to pick up the pilot.

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