I chose Livorno for its diverse history, famous coffee, proximity to the sea and centrality for road trips around Tuscany. While staying in Italy we went on many short-day trips to Florence, Pisa, Modena, Bologna, the Tuscan Alps, Grossetto and many other nearby places.

We arrived in Livorno the day after a major storm, the rains washed out the train lines between Pisa and Livorno. We had to take a bus around Pisa as our last leg to Livorno. The bus’s décor was 1978 and the music was too, jamming to old hits along the way. We arrived late afternoon to a flooded city. We went out looking for food near the apartment and found a pizzeria. They were making a strange flatbread sort of dish that I thought was corn, maybe a massive flat polenta? I ordered one big piece of what I learned was Calda, it’s a chic pea flour based flat bread that was invented onboard a ship in 1284.

The city has an few really cool sites. An exceptional market in a beautiful old building, the inside market is where fish, meat and dairy are sold. On the outside there are garment vendors and plenty of produce. Since it was early autumn we were excited to buy lots of interesting mushrooms, most notable the porcini. I found a coffee roaster who mixed a really good Arabica coffee. Despite being raised in Central America I never got into coffee, but while in Italy I acquired the morning habit. I carried that coffee with me for months to give to my friend in Vermont. The Mascagni terrace is a great place for taking pictures, checkered tiles along the sea are reminiscent of Alice in Wonderland, it’s a great place for a tea party, or picnic. The fortress has pine trees which smell more amazing than any I’ve encountered anywhere before. The same pine trees can be found lined the road of Parco Regionale Migliarino.

There are so many interesting churches, but the most notable one for me was in Montenero, next to the Sanctuary of Montenero there is an entrance, in a small room next to a vestibule, where if I didn’t notice I would have missed it, I would have looked in the small tabernacle and not think much of it. Well… until I looked at one painting. The first one I noticed was a horse kicking a man in the groin. I was shocked! The blood is dripping from his trousers. I looked at another and another and realized that the walls were covered in these paintings depicting different deaths. The Ex-Votos are based on actual near-death experiences. This is one of the coolest things I’ve seen.

Another interesting thing about Livorno is the strange sculptures. The city was a major merchant city which means they also had a lot of cultures coming together. The sculptures are intense, some quite creepy while others are heroic. The city is still one of Italy’s largest port cities and it’s been rundown due to constant communist political control. Where we stayed was just down the street from the region’s major communist party and the Airbnb host was a member. The apartment owner has a few strange pins in the bathroom. One is “communist gato” a cat with blood dripping from under its paws, lots of creepy in and around this old city.

The Airbnb we stayed in was in the perfect area for some great food. We had a few specialty shops selling fresh pasta and sauce. One of the sauces that I was most fond of was the traditional Ligurian walnut sauce that’s famously served with ravioli, but it’s good on absolutely everything. 

When my mother joined us in late September we took her on road trips to many different amazing areas. We went on one to Bologna through the Tuscan Alps and another to Modena where we found awesome wineries selling bottles for 1 Euro a bottle. Of course, I stocked up on balsamic while there. I’ll be posting a story about those road trips as well as some of the nearby cities in the coming months. I hope you enjoy.