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Acquedotto Leopoldino

Livorno: the ideal Renaissance city

A cosmopolitan multi-cultural city, famous for its fortified walls and canals

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Livorno was built as the 'ideal Italian Renaissance city'. This cosmopolitan, multi-cultural city is rich in history and famous for its fortified walls and canals. If you arrive in Livorno by sea then you come ashore right in the Medicean city centre. The 15th-century ramparts of the ancient fort stand on the Vecchia Darsena waterfront. This grandiose and evocative fort was built on the foundations of both the Mastio di Matilde and the 14th-century fortress, known as the Quadratura dei Pisani. Urban development undertaken in the second half of the 1500’s was carried out by Grand Duke Francesco I, who entrusted his architect Bernardo Buontalenti with the task of designing the “ideal city”, and Grand Duke Ferdinardo I who continued the construction of the harbour and the residential area. Piazza d’Arme (now called Piazza Grande), the cathedral, Via Grande and characteristic pentagonal city walls (fortified at every angle and surrounded by the still navigable Medicean moats) were also built.

The New Fortress (Fortezza Nuova) standing inside the pentagon is now a public park used for cultural events. Further modifications were carried out during the 1600’s in the Venezia Nuova neighbourhood, created between the harbour and the New Fortress. This neighbourhood still maintains its original urban and architectural layout including a dense network of canals, used for connecting the merchants’ residences with their warehouses. These spacious high-rise buildings were founded on the river-bed and merchandise was stored on the ground floor. The neighbourhood is also full of religious and civil buildings such as the 18th century Oil Bottini, store wells for preserving oil, and now an exhibition area. The Venezia neighbourhood is a favourite tourist haunt which comes to life at night with its many characteristic bars and restaurants, where typical local cuisine can be sampled and cultural events enjoyed.

Since 1994, the splendid Villa Mimbelli has been home to the Giovanni Fattori Civic Museum, which also contains numerous works of art by other 19th- and 20th-century artists from the Macchiaioli, Post-Macchiaioli, and Divisionist movements. Many works by Giovanni Fattori can be admired along with those by Signorini, Cabianca, Boldini, Tommasi, Lega, De Tivoli, Corcos, Nomellini, Ulvi Liegi, Cappiello and many others. Temporary exhibitions are held alongside in the old barn.