|Cunard Queen Victoria 2018
Mediterranean Cruise part 10 - Livorno
Livorno is the gateway to Tuscany and it is ideal for visiting Florence and Pisa. Florence was the cradle of the Renaissance and home to the Duomo, the Uffizi and the Ponte Vecchio. Here the Medici fostered a city-state whose cultural legacy is as great as classical Athens. Giants like Dante, Da Vinci, Michelangelo and Galileo infused the West with a new creative spirit. Then there is Pisa, Florence's rival for political power. Pisa was a brash, commercial seafaring town rivaling the great maritime powers of Venice and Genoa. The city was a leader in art and architecture second only to Florence. On a previous voyage on the Queen Victoria in 2010 we had taken a train to Florence, which was very enjoyable. On another voyage we had taken the train to Pisa. This time we had decided to only visit Livorno.
It is not possible to walk from the port and there was a free shuttle bus to the Via Cogorana, close to the Tourist Information Office and the Piazza Grande. The shuttle bus crossed and re-crossed little canals with rows of small boats. Bus tickets last for 70 minutes and are cheaper if bought in advance, 1.50 euros instead of 2.50 euros on the bus. We were planning to catch the Red LAM Rosso bus to Montenero, just outside Livorno where there are excellent views over the town and also visit the Sanctuary of the Madonna di Montenero. Then the idea was to walk back along the coast. The LAM Rosso bus stop was on the Via Grande, on the opposite side to the cathedral. There are three different branches ending the LAM Rosso bus route and the ones to Montenero depart at xx.06 and xx.36. The cathedral is open in the mornings from 0900 to 1200, and was quiet and peaceful, although there was construction work and scaffolding in the side chapel. They are proud of their painting of the head of Christ crowned with thorns, by Fra Angelico dated 1438, and recently restored.
The 09.36 bus arrived at the Piazza della Carrozze terminus in Montenero with plenty of time to get the funicular to the Sanctuary. The funicular accepted our existing bus ticket which was valid because it was under an hour since we had stamped it on entry to the bus. The funicular is automatic with no driver. There are two coaches and the coach going up passes the coach going down at the halfway point. The track is through trees and there is grass growing between the tracks. Several local people travelled with us and we discovered there was Mass every day at the Sanctuary at 10.30. First we admired the views down and could just see the red funnel of Queen Victoria in the distance beyond the town. There are a few souvenir stalls by the station and several shops and restaurants.
The Sanctuary of the Madonna of Montenero is one of three important sites of the ex-voto tradition in Tuscany. The foundation of the sanctuary is said to be linked to the discovery of an image of the Virgin Mary in 1345 by a poor and crippled shepherd. He brought it to the "black mountain" and a small church was built. The image was considered miraculous, and the church was replaced and enlarged several times, most recently in 1720. The gallery of the church contains hundreds of ex-voto pieces which have been offerred as a gesture of gratitude or devotion. Many have been after a close shave, a cured illness, or recovery from a dangerous accident. There were many pictures of written-off cars and one where a boy stands in front of a braking train. The rooms contain organised groupings of paintings, pictures, news items, dresses, rosaries and heirlooms. Each represents a story behind a received miracle. Around the cloisters there is a small nativity scene and the inevitable shop selling books, rosaries and other catholic souvenirs. Just beyond is the Capella dei ceri votivi
Mass was still in progress as we left the church and caught the funicular back down the hill. The LAM Rosso was waiting at the terminus and we got off at the Piazza Sforzini, just beyond where the railway line crossed overhead. Our walk back to the town followed Itinerary 4 "The Seafront" on the map of walks, and was supposed to be of length 5 kms and take about 2 hours. Fortunately it was a flat walk from the Piazza Sforzini down the Via del Mare to the coast at Ardenza. The route then followed the coast, with a good footpath and tarmac cycle path separated from the main road. The area of Ardenza has a number of bathing establishments and elegant large houses along the Viale Italia. The walk passed the Ippodromo on one side and the Naval Academy on the other side. There are more large detached houses before reaching the two monumental arches of the Barriera Regina Margherita. Shortly afterwards we passed the Church of S. Jacopo in Acquaviva and were then within sight of the port in the distance. There are more bathing establishments with the Bagni Pancaldi on the edge of the elegant Terrazza Mascagni with its rotunda. Just across the road is the magnificent Grand Hotel Palazzo which was built in the 1800s. There is a useful icecream shop soon afterwards.
This is the end of the promenade and the road heads towards the boat works passing the statue of Luigi Orlando outside the derelict Cantiere Luigi Orlando. The Arsenale bridge and the statue of the 4 Moors marks the end of the Via Grande and our circular tour. There was still time to visit the small streets behind the cathedral, towards the Scali Saffi, where there were open air market stalls selling vegetables and cheap clothes. Just beyond was the monumental indoor Central Market. We like to purchase local delicacies, often cooked meat, cheeses and pastries. The market had lots of cheese for sale and on our previous visit we had purchased a local pecorino toscana with black truffles, a couple of different ages of local Tuscan Padano and a local artisan hard cheese. Unfortunately we already have far too much cheese so only purchased 100gms of a very nice Spanish bellotta pata negra which was carved by hand for us and we were promised that it was 100% fed on acorns. The stall had dozens of hams hanging proudly from its roof, all with the distinctive black feet and wearing their quality marks. We exited the market from a different door and admired the Grand Canal. The weather was not improving and it was time to walk back to the shuttle bus, although we detoured to look at the modern architecture of the Synagogue.
|Copyright © Peter and Pauline Curtis
Content revised: 2nd November, 2018