Venezia Nuova, the fascinating historic district of Livorno (Tuscany)

 

Resembling a little Venice with its dense network of canals and bridges, the Venice district of Livorno was founded in 1629 under the Medici. The district retains much of its original town lay-out and architectural features, which were designed to facilitate transportation of goods between its storehouses and the port, one of the most important ones of the Mediterranean at that time.

Located at the heart of Livorno the Venice district represents the true ancient center of the town, as it was in the 17th and 18th centuries. Two forts, Fortezza Vecchia and Fortezza Nuova mark the boundary of the district on either end.

Originally inhabited by foreign communities of fisherman and sailors, the colorful district was called Venezia Nuova (New Venice) because it was built by Venetian workers using the same techniques as in Venice.

Described as an ‘ideal’ city in the late Renaissance, Livorno attracted many newcomers due to its famous ‘constitution’ of 1593, which encouraged immigration by protecting the freedom of its new citizens.

Soon, the more prosperous merchant class had elegant palaces built above the storehouses. A rich example of these palaces can be seen in Via Borra, the largest and most important road of the historic residential area where the main merchant families of Livorno lived and traded. Not far away is the Bottini dell’Olio in Viale Caprera, built in 1705 as warehouses for storing oil, which now house a library.

During day-time the district is rather quiet, but at night it becomes very lively with former storehouses now turned into bars and restaurants.

Livorno’s Venezia district is also the stage of the very atmospheric festival, Effetto Venezia, a combination of music, theatre, cabaret, poetry, art and crafts that usually lasts two weeks from the end July to the beginning of August.