Eat Your Way around Livorno!
If you are a lover of Italian food, or just food in general, you can easily spend a day or a weekend in Livorno making your way around a selection of the many cafés, bars, restaurants and market stalls sampling some of the local gourmet specialities. After all, Italian life rotates around food, so you cannot leave without trying at least a few of the great things to eat and drink.
Try Some (or all) of Livorno’s Specialities
I suggest beginning the day as many locals do, in one of the local bars for a breakfast Cappuccino or Espresso coffee and a pastry. An early visit ensures a good choice of pastries, whether you prefer a plain variety or one filled with custard or jam. Try a Budino di Riso (a kind of rice-pudding cake) for something different. Stand around the bar if you want to blend in with the Livornese, or take the weight off your feet at a table – if there is one.
Next stop, the covered food market. Livorno’s Mercato Centrale is an amazing building built in the 19th century. Open from Monday to Saturday, until lunchtime, the market offers a real insight into people’s food shopping habits in Livorno, and gives you a chance to wander and stare at the wide variety of produce on sale.
A separate section houses the fresh fish market – not to be missed - , while another is dedicated to the sale of fruit and vegetables. You could stock up on picnic food and head off to one of Livorno’s parks for lunch.
A favourite mid-morning snack is a piece of Schiacciata (flat bread made with olive oil) available at all the bakers’ stalls. You could also try some very moreish Roschette, small rings of savoury hard-baked dough, a distant cousin and much smaller version of the bagel (maybe). Bakery products, like other food produce, are sold by the kilo – but an etto (100grams, about 4oz for the non-metric)or two should be enough.
Lunch decision. Picnic? Head for Villa Fabbricotti on the number 2 or number 6 bus (from Piazza Cavour), only a few minutes’ ride away.
Takeaway snack? It has to be Torta di Ceci, a local speciality, a kind of huge pancake made from chick pea flour, baked in a wood-fired oven and then cut up and eaten in a roll. Ask for a 5+5 (cinque e cinque), the numbers referring to the old value of the Torta and the accompanying bread. It is still a cheap, filling and very tasty meal. Try adding marinated aubergines for extra flavour. Continue walking as you eat, or stand and people-watch as you munch.
Restaurant? Fish enthusiasts will want to try one of the local fish dishes, the most famous of which is Cacciucco, a thick fish stew made from five different kinds of fish.
What next? If you feel like a walk, it’s worth heading for the most famous of Livorno’s ponce bars, Civili, out towards the station (or take bus no. 1 from the centre). Livornese Ponce is a mixture of coffee and rum served hot with sugar and a small piece of lemon zest and was invented by sailors to warm them up on cold evenings. You can get it in any bar.
Skip the Ponce? Round off the day with an ice cream instead, at one of the Gelaterias in town or on the seafront. Smallest cones give you a choice of two flavours, and there should be a clear sign showing cone sizes and prices.
And after all that, why not finish up at a bar again and have an aperitif before dinner.....