Livorno is a lively mediterranean port often overlooked by tourists, yet well worth a visit. It has Etruscan origins, and its name is supposedly derived from a type of Roman ship, the "Laburna", but it remained fairly small and unknown for centuries. Livorna is mentioned for the first time in 1017 as a small coastal village, the port and the remains of a Roman tower under the rule of Lucca.
The next few centuries bring little notoriety do the small port, which is bought and dols by a variety of other small states; to Milan in 1399, to Genoa in 1405 and to Florence in 1421. It was only really when the Medici Family, rulers of Florence, decided in the second half of the 16th century, to make Livorno an "Ideal City". In 1577 Bernardo Buontalenti redesigned the port area and fortress and in 1580 the port was designated a Porto Franco (Free Port) - which meant that the goods traded here were duty-free within the area of the town's control.
Legislation protected freedom of religion and offered amnesties, encouraging diversity and offering refuge to numerous Turks, Persians, Moors, Greeks, and Armenians. After the Alhambra Decree which led to the expulsion of Jews from Spain and Portugal, Livorno extended them rights and privileges; the influx of Jewish immigrants contributed greatly to the mercantile wealth and scholarship in the city.
Livorno became an enlightened European city and one of the most important ports of the entire Mediterranean Basin. European thinkers moved to Livorno, including figures like Martin Luther, John Calvin, and others. Meanwhile, Jews continued to trade under their previous treaties with the Grand Duke.
By the 18th century various European power had established trading houses in Livorno, notably the British with the "Levant Company". In the wake of this an increasing number of British writers, artists, philosophers, and travelers visited the area and developed the unique historical ties between the two communities - Livorno is part of the British Grand Tour.
Today Livorno is a lovely city to explore, with canals next to the old fortress, street markets and the sea front promenade.