THE MACCHIAIOLI STYLE
Infos from Macchiaioli museum
Around the middle of the last century, the most important and active movement of Italian nineteenth century was born in Florence: that of the Macchiaioli.The school of the Macchiaioli was begun as a contraposition to the academicism that had characterised the first half of the century, with its historical paintings. The theory was that the philosophy of this pictorial movement, that chronologically preceded French
impressionism, and that for certain aspects was similar to it, was that of the spot. The Macchiaioli thought that the painter should reproduce exactly what the human eye can see:therefore, coloured spots made of light and shadows.The greatest representative of the movement was the painter Giovanni Fattori, born in Leghorn in 1825.And it was for the most representative painter of the spot that Leghorn named a museum.The Giovanni Fattori Municipal Museum is situated inside the park of Villa Fabbricotti, in a nineteenthcentury palace. The museum Hoses a collection of paintings by Fattori,among which Pagliaio, I Buoi,Antignano,Sulla Spiaggia, Torre Rossa, Butteri, Battaglia di San Martino, La Signora Martelli, Ritratto della Moglie. The museum also displays works of other Macchiaioli painters, such as Telemaco Signorini and Silvestro Lega.In the museum are also such works as Ritratto by Arturo Conti,Il Fienaiolo,and Testa di Ciociaro by Plinio Novellini,a painter from Leghorn and a pupil of Fattori,who left the Macchiaioli movement to go to divisionism. Apart from the nineteenth-century painters,the museum owns some ancient works such as La Madonna col Bambino that is attributed to Sandro Botticelli and the Crocifissione by Neri di Bicci.
The Dominican Church
The heart of the lively maritime tradition is the picturesque neighborhood called New Venice, which is characterized by a thick network of canals and architectural elements from the Medici period. The Dominican Church of Saint Catherine (18th century) is unique for the octagonal design, surmounted by a tall (63 m.) dome. The apse is decorated with the Coronation of the Virgin by Vasari. On the edge of the district is the New Fort, an impressive bastion from the 17th century, today fitted out as a public park. The immense Piazza Della Repubblica, made by covering the Royal Canal, is also called “Voltone.” At the far end of the piazza are the statues of the Grand Dukes of Lorena, Ferdinand III and Leopold II (1800’s).
Piazza della Repubblica
The most impressive square in Livorno is actually a sort of bridge over the main canal. It seems far too large for a place like Livorno, far too grand...and very empty. Two larger than life statues face off each other across the length of this huge piazza, but I forget who they are...
One one side, a busy road separates the piazza from the canal facing the Fortezza Nuova. The canal branches off and travels under the piazza, emerging on the other side to form a sort of moat around the centro storico. Just next door to Piazza della Repubblica is Piazza Garibaldi, a smaller version with a statue of Garibaldi.
If this piazza was in any other Tuscan city, there would be overpriced outdoor cafes and portrait artists and mime artists and buskers. But Livorno has none of this. In fact, we couldn't find a single cafe around the square...and by that time, I needed a shot of coffee!
The best views are to be had from inside the Fortezza Nuova...tramp through the undergrowth and scramble up the wall behind the playground, and Piazza della repubblica spreads out before you.
Fortezza Vecchia and the harbour
Livorno's harbourfront is a picturesque place, with all the posh yachts at one end, and the smaller dowdier fishing boats shoved up by the old fort. Along the waterfront is a large monument called the Quattro Mori, with a statue of a Grand Duke surrounded by four prisoners in chains.
Finding out what there is to do in Livorno can be a bit tricky. Livorno is a major port in one of Italy's most visited regions, Tuscany, and thousands if not millions of tourists pass through the port each year...but not many stick around long enough to see anything other than the docks, preferring to zoom up the autostrada in coaches heading for Florence, Pisa and Siena.
The cruise I was on (not by choice...) was sceduled to stop in Livorno, and the cruiseline website waxed lyrical about the joys of Tuscany without even mentioning Livorno. Guidebooks were equally dismissive, recalling the heavy bombing in World War II and supplying little more than transport details to more touristic places inland.
It was only by stumbling across a few photos on VT and elsewhere of Livorno's centro storico (old centre) and canals that I realised there may be more to Livorno than a modern port. Opting out of organized shore excursions deeper into Tuscany, I stayed in Livorno.
My eldest brother's tour had been cancelled, so he decided to tag along for the morning. We took the ship's shuttle bus to the Piazza del Municipio in the heart of Livorno's historic centre. The handful of other passengers on the bus queued up at the tourist information kiosk asking about buses to Pisa...it seemed we were the only two set to explore Livorno.
First impressions weren't so great. The streets immediately around the square were nothing to write home about, frantic traffic tearing past modernish shops and office blocks. But a short walk from the square brought us to the first of Livorno's many canals, lined with old houses, mostly reddish brown walls with green shutters. Unlike many historic cities, this one had not been done up, given a lick of paint...Livorno is worn, tired, slightly dilapidated...but that was what makes it so interesting.
Part of the old city is actually called the Quartiere Venezia, built centuries ago for the working classes, canals instead of streets to make transporting goods easier. Add a few souvenir shops and posh waterside cafes, and dump a thousand camera-toting tourists to clog up the walkways, and it could almost be Venice...instead it is a residential quarter almost untouched by tourism.
A large fort which must have once been quite grand now stands abandoned on an island surrounded by canals. Today it is an open-air park, all over-growing grass, broken swings and slides, and packs of cats. Across the water lies the enormous Piazza della Repubblica, which is in fact a bridge covering the city's main canal. The canal opens up again on the other side of the square, taking you past grander buildings and the impressive Mercato Centrale, before reaching the harbour.
One thing we did notice about Livorno was the almost total lack of cafes. After the terrible coffee on board the ship, I was looking forward to a proper espresso, and my brother was practically gasping for a cappuccino...that had been our initial goal when setting out from the square, something to wake us up before sightseeing...but by the time we'd found one, we'd already explored half the city centre! Maybe we'd been looking in the wrong places, but none of the picturesque canalside walkways or large squares seemed to offer any coffee whatsoever.
Caffeine intake dealt with, we headed down to the coast to the south of the city. Ten minutes or so from the harbour, we came across the historic Scoglio della Regina, a ruined bathhouse which used to cater for the royal family many moons ago. A bit further south, we reached the Terrazza Mascagni, a 1920's promenade with balconies and chessboard black and white tiling, a great location for wedding photos it seems. A string of private beach complexes ends in Piazza San Jacopo in Acquaviva, flanked by the sea and an oddly attractive old church.
A great lunch of pasta and beer at a seaside restaurant later (a much cheaper lunch than anything teh rest of my family ate in overpriced Florence), we returned to the city centre to meet up with my other brother, who had just got back from an organised tour of Lucca. He wasn't interested in seeing Livorno ("once you've seen one canal, they're all pretty much the same"), so both brothers boarded the shuttle bus back to the ship...but I was not going back to that nightmare just yet...not when there were more streets to explore. There were still a good few hours before the last shuttle bus, so I made the most fo it, tramping the backstreets, visiting churches, and enjoying one last espresso.