The 10 Top Things to Do in Livorno, Italy

Quartiere Venezia in Livorno

TripSavvy / Christopher Larson

Livorno, one of central Italy's main economic hubs, is known for its massive, modern seaport and medieval-era fortifications. It's also a great Tuscan destination for freshly caught seafood. But there are other appealing reasons to visit Livorno, including a lovely system of urban waterways, historic and contemporary museums, and vibrant nightlife.

Many visitors arrive here on a cruise ship and consider Livorno a stopover to more popular destinations. However, those visitors are missing out. We suggest taking your time in Livorno and experiencing the charms of this lesser-known Italian coastal city. Here are some of the best things to see and do in Livorno.

01 of 10

Stand Watch for Enemy Ships at the Old Fortress

Fortezza Vecchia in Livorno, Tuscany, Italy

TripSavvy / Christopher Larson

Piazzale dei Marmi, 57126 Livorno LI, Italy
Phone +39 0586 249568

During the Renaissance era, defensive bastions dotted the coastline of the Italian peninsula from Sicily all the way to the border with France. Built to defend the city against invasions by nearby rivals or foreign enemies, the Old Fortress (Fortezza Vecchia) faced out onto the harbor, at the entrance to the Quartiere Venezia. It was designed in a pentagonal shape to give it an imposing presence. From inside its walls, you can enjoy amazing views of the city's canals and terracotta rooftops.

02 of 10

Learn About Coastal Life at the Natural History Museum

Natural HIstory Museum in Livorno

TripSavvy / Christopher Larson

Phone +39 0586 266711

First opened in 1929, this museum was created to house the discoveries of Livorno naturalists. Besides an impressive collection of whale skeletons (including one measuring almost 64 feet long), Museo di Storia Naturale del Mediterranean contains botanical gardens of Mediterranean coastal flora, an environmental education center, and a number of exhibits covering the Paleolithic and Neolithic periods. The museum was completely destroyed in 1944 and arrived at its current location in 1980.

03 of 10

Dive Into the Livorno Aquarium

Livorno Aquarium in Italy

TripSavvy / Christopher Larson

Piazza Mascagni, 1, 57127 Livorno LI, Italy
Phone +39 0586 269111

Located right on the water at Terrza Mascagni, Acquario di Livorno (Livorno Aquarium) is an ideal family destination. The ground floor of the Aquarium is dedicated to sea life in all forms, with tanks mimicking the environments of the Mediterranean Sea and Pelagos Sanctuary. There's also an underwater tunnel, touch pool, and tank with a recreation of Roman shipwreck. The second level is devoted to insects, amphibians, and reptiles featuring animals like leaf cutter ants (complete with an anthill), chameleons, and poison dart frogs.

Because it's located on the water, after you get your fill of the wonders inside, head to the panoramic terrace to enjoy views of the promenade and islands of the Tuscan archipelago.

04 of 10

Take a Boat Ride Through Quartiere Venezia

Quartiere Venezia in Livorno, Italy

TripSavvy / Christopher Larson

Scali delle Ancore, 5, 57123 Livorno LI, Italy

Quartiere Venezia (Venice Quarter) is a unique, 17th-century neighborhood located in the historic center of the city. It's also referred to as Venezia Nuova (New Venice), for obvious reasons. The system of canals, common in Italy during the Middle Ages, ​was used to move products between merchants' homes and warehouses, and even today many residents still keep boats moored outside their houses. The best way to experience Quartiere Venezia is, obviously, from the water on a relaxing boat ride. IF you happen to be visiting in August, the Effetto Venezia (Venice Effect) festival celebrates this water-bound district.

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05 of 10

Take a Side Trip to Pisa

The leaning tower of Pisa with the sun setting behind it

TripSavvy / Jamie Ditaranto

Livorno makes a great seaside base to visit one of the most famous UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The Pisa, and its famed tower, is just a 17-minute train ride from Livorno. The Baptistry, Duomo (cathedral), and the Leaning Tower—an iconic symbol of Italy — are located in Pisa's Campo dei Miracoli (field of miracles). A definite bucket list location especially for those visiting the region for the first time, all three buildings are wonderful examples of 12th- and 13th-century Romanesque-style architecture, adorned with intricate, Arabic-style patterns and details.

06 of 10

Wander Among the Headstones at the Old English Cemetery

Old English Cemetery in Livorno

TripSavvy / Christopher Larson

Via Giuseppe Verdi, 53, 57126 Livorno LI, Italy

Located near Via Verdi and in use since the 1600s Livorno's Old English Cemetery is the oldest non-Catholic burial ground in Italy. Wander the grounds and read epithets of famous and not-so-famous travelers and expatriates of the era, such as Scottish writer Tobias Smollet, wealthy American businessman William Magee Seton, and many British and American sailors. The cemetery was severely damaged during WWII bombing but managed to survive and is today one of Livorno's most interesting and tranquil places to visit.

07 of 10

People-Watch on Terrazza Mascagni

Terrazza Mascagni in Livorno, Italy

TripSavvy / Christopher Larson

Viale Italia, 139, 57127 Livorno LI, Italy
Phone +39 0586 894236

Terrazza Mascagni is a charming waterfront promenade that's buzzing with activity year-round. Paved in a black-and-white checkerboard pattern, it's lined with marble benches, restaurants, shops, and a grand gazebo. Walks along the promenade are always lovely and in the evening, Terrazza Mascagni is where locals and visitors, young and old, come to walk, people-watch, and enjoy the view.

08 of 10

Sample Cacciucco or Other Livornese Cuisine

Cacciucco livornese (fish stew), Tuscany, Italy

StockFood/Getty Images

In Livorno, seafood reigns supreme, and you'd be remiss to visit the city without trying cacciucco, its best-known dish. Cacciucco is a fish stew made with herbs and tomatoes spooned over garlic toast. While seafood is the star of the show, other gastronomic delights feature lamb, cinghiale (wild boar), and fowl. For an after-dinner drink, try a heady ponce livornese: a mix of rum, cognac, sassolino (anise-flavored liqueur), lemon rind, sugar, and a shot of hot coffee.

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09 of 10

Stock Up at the Central Market

Central Market, Livorno, Italy

TripSavvy / Christopher Larson

Via Buontalenti, 57126 Livorno LI, Italy
Phone +39 331 593 3689

Livorno's traditional Central Market occupies a 19th-century building and houses more than 200 stalls and shops. There's a little bit of everything here, from ready-to-eat street food to everything you need for a good ragu. Even if you're not grocery shopping, a spin through this lively market (closed on Sundays) offers a wonderful slice of Italian life.

10 of 10

Head to a Beach Bagni

Beach Bagni in Livorno

TripSavvy / Christopher Larson

While Livorno is not a great beach town, you can still enjoy a day at sea here. One only needs to head to one of the many bagni, or seaside complexes, south of the port. For a day-use fee, you can access small sandy areas for kids to play, along with sheltered swimming areas, lounge chair and umbrella rentals, snack bars and changing facilities.

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The 10 Top Things to Do in Livorno, Italy