Livorno: a different city
Livorno, the second city in Tuscany as regards population density, is situated twenty kilometers away from Pisa and it is connected to it by means of a navigable canal. It is a peculiar city, whose structure, architecture and atmosphere have nothing to do with the rest of the capitals in the province of Tuscany. It changed from being a small port serving the Marine Republic of Pisa to becoming the Tuscan port, which is nowadays the third most important port in Italy after those in Geneva and Naples.
The Medicis decided to turn Livorno into a perfect city, whose social life, economic development and architecture were at the level of that impressive port, emblematic because of the fortifications which protected it, and whose commercial and military activity were going to produce great economic benefits to Tuscany, besides protecting its coasts from enemies’ attacks and mainly from the recurrent raids of Ottoman pirates.
So, just like that, as if out of the blue, appeared a splendid city, whose developing neighborhoods started to connect with the center by means of navigable canals, turning into a small and peculiar “Venice” to the whole of Italy’s amazement. Livorno could be considered a city which had been marvelously invented in the late Renaissance. Therefore, the best of its urban layout and its architecture starts with designs and monuments with clear cuts and mannerism character, successively passing from the baroque, to the rococo, to the neo classical style, to finally delight us with a Belle Epoque and Art Noveau architecture, which is mainly present in the marvelous promenade seafront and the areas adjacent to it, impregnating the city with a lyrical and nostalgic atmosphere.
In general terms, I guess you must have got the picture of what Livorno is like, but, its external aspect, in spite of being as fascinating as particular, is not the only thing that denotes the true idiosyncrasy of the city as it bases itself on the historical universality of the city, thing which would not be surprising in nowadays Europe, but we are talking about the late XVI century, when thanks to the Constitution of Livorno, enacted by Ferdinando I de Medici, Duque of Tuscany at the time, the doors of the city opened up to everyone who wanted to live in the city and to work there together with their families no matter their race, country of origin or religious belief. The Constitution offered full rights Tuscan citizenship, religious freedom and the indult of any crime they had been previously condemned of in their country of origin, as from then on Livorno would be ruled by local criminal and civil laws, regulated by their own courts, independent from those of the Grand Duchy.
Thus, the city became a new and true home to thousands of sailors, artisans, merchants and other workers, who found there the freedom and well being their countries of origin deprived them from.
People came from all over Italy, which, at that time, was completely fragmented and subjugated by the different local governments of Greece, Armenia, the east of Europe, the Middle East; and so did hordes of Jews and Muslims, who were forced to go into exile because of terrible religious persecutions. The same thing happened with the Catholics from the most diverse social classes and intellectual backgrounds, who arrived from England, Holland, Germany and some places in France to be able to live in freedom according to their beliefs.
They not only lived together peacefully sharing the same neighborhoods and places, but each community started to establish their own churches, cemeteries; and the Jews, who called Livorno the "new promised land", built temples, schools, a university, a museum and different cultural establishments. Working all together, side by side, they turned Livorno into a rich city, which at the beginning of XVII century was already “porto franco”, recognized as such by an international treaty.
Those stateless people, either by choice or forced to become so, exchanged, languages, customs and gastronomy giving birth to a singular language, or local dialect, which still runs, and in which they could understand each other perfectly well, despite their mother tongue. It was also as from that moment that the gastronomy of Livorno, considered in Italy as one of the best in the country, experienced an amazing development, both in quantity as in quality, as the recipes from one and other started to circulate all round the city, and to become adopted by the other cultures as their own. Nowadays you can indulge in the exquisite Mediterranean cuisine and savor the famous "cacciuco", a superb fish and seafood stew, accompanied with pieces of toasted bread with garlic and olive oil, as well as in the refined "cuscussú", a Jewish variety of the traditional "cous-cous", or enjoy many other dishes and extraordinary desserts from the most diverse countries, which are only properly stewed and served in Livorno.
You can’t miss Livorno. I can assure you visiting Livorno is a unique experience.
On the other hand, I can’t stop thinking about how convenient it would be for those who make and enact the current immigration laws to learn a little from the sensible and generous Ferdinando I de Medici. Deep inside, many of them would feel ashamed of their short intelligence and meanness, and maybe, some would change their ultra-conservative conduct, which only leads to confrontations and impoverishment.