The thing I’ve grown to love about Livorno since moving here is its laid back and authentic character. It’s a town without pretension and its food reflects exactly that. The restaurants here are full of locals which means prices are reasonable while the quality is high. As a historic port town, the thing Livorno does best of course is fish! Read on for my favourite markets, street food, and seafood restaurants both in Livorno and south along the Tuscan coast. Buon appetito!
Mercato delle Vettovaglie – Historic Market
Livorno’s central market is one of the most beautiful I’ve seen in Italy. Booths cluster under the high ceilings where you can buy the freshest eggs (divided into ones you cook with and ones you can drink (“da bere”)), cheese, meats, fresh produce, handmade pasta, the crumbliest tastiest taralli biscuits and of course a huge fish market. I advise grabbing some creamy gorgonzola, taralli and prosciutto, and crunchy apples, ordering a glass of wine and enjoying your feast at the central tables.
Via Buontalenti – Mercato Website
Antica Torteria Al Mercato Da Gagarin – Livorno’s #1 street Food (and it’s gluten free!)
Walk through the hanging rope curtain over the entrance to this hole-in-the-wall place that has been baking up chickpea flour pancakes since the 1960s and prepare to experience the legend that is “5&5”. Elsewhere in Tuscany this chickpea flour cake is called “Cecina,” “Farinata,” or “Torta di Ceci” (Chickpea cake) but if you want to blend in with the locals you’ll call it “Cinque cinque” or Five and Five. Why? Once upon a time the “cake” was five lira and the bread another five. Now you’ll spend €4 for a little sandwich with this salty, greasy, crispy chickpea pancake inside. (Without bread if you’re gluten free of course.) They’ll ask you if you’d like black pepper or spicy eggplant as well. I say yes to both! And if you want to go all the way, you’ll accompany it with a glass of “spuma,” the local soft drink.
Via del Cardinale, 24 – Gagarin Website
La Stuzzicheria di Mare – Best Fish
This place displays its fresh fish at the bar (where locals can even do their shopping) with the cooks right behind the counter whipping up the absolute best fish dishes in the city. My all time favourite is the “Spaghetti allo scoglio” which is a mix of calamari, mussels, clams, shrimp but cooked into a kind of rich stew and mixed with spaghetti. This is my favourite dish in Livorno. Period. You must have it. Also, the fried anchovies are insane. Wash it all down with a “sgroppino al limone” afterwards (lemon sorbet with a dash of vodka) to clean the pallet.
Piazza Giuseppe Mazzini, 66 (NOT the one at Scali della Ancore.) – Stuzzicheria Website
Il Romito – Cacciucco with a View
The view. The view. The view. Sunset overlooking the sea, a bridge, a cliff, a small castle while you sip white wine … that’s Tuscany. The best thing to eat here is the cacciucco (pronounced ka-chu-ko) – the typical Livornese stew which (like most great Italian dishes) derived at the crossroads of ingenuity and scarcity. All the leftover bits of fish nobody wanted to buy would be cooked down in this red-brown spiced and savoury stew served over crunchy bread that soaks up the sauce and softens into delectable mouthfuls of awesomeness.
Via del Littorale, 274 – Il Romito Website
Osteria il Rogiolo – in Quercianella
Twenty minutes south of Livorno, you’ll find our favourite rock beach spot. Go for a swim in this hidden corner called the “Lido del Rogiolo” then, with the salt still on your skin, head to the restaurant and order the Spaghetti all Vongole (my favourite vongole ever) paired with their house Vermentino – a crisp white wine. Share the enormous fresh mixed grill or the to-die-for fritto (calamari and shrimps fried to perfection). At lunch, you can eat inside by the windows overlooking the sea and at night the upper terrace under the stars is heavenly.
If you don’t want to go into the restaurant, I’ll let you in on a secret – there is a take away menu you can ask for at the bar and they’ll let you take your porcelain plate down to eat on the rocks.
Via Cristoforo Colombo, 26 – Rogiolo Website
Il Coccodrillo – in Castiglioncello
Also south of Livorno on the coast (about 30 minutes drive), Castiglioncello is a favourite for Florentine visitors coming to the coast. Right on the water, the vibe of il Coccodrillo is classy-relaxed, the food is delicious and if they have the urchins on the menu – get ’em! Offers both indoor and outdoor seating and they will be proud to tell you that their fritto is made gluten free!
Lungomare Cristoforo Colombo, 18 – Coccodrillo Website
When you need a burger, you need a burger (or maybe that’s just me). Here, try the Octopus Burger with the black squid ink bun paired with Baladin beer (Italy’s first craft beer).
Scali Adriano Novi Lena, 27 – Borgo Burger Website
La Baracchina Rossa – Your go-to caffè from Cappuccino to Cocktail
Many of the little beach caffe’s along the coast of Livorno are called “Barracchine” or “shacks” though as you can see this shack is pretty spiffed up. Perfect to read a newspaper and sip a frothy cappicino in the morning while watching the sea or meet friends for a drink and chat at night with occasional live music.
Viale Italia, 106 – Baracchina Facebook Page
Caprilli – Gelato
My favourite gelato spot. Right by the Terrazza Mascagni so you can grab their authentic and seasonal flavours and go for a stroll on the sea front. My favourite combo is the dark chocolate combined with yogurt with honey and walnuts.
Via dei Funaioli, 2 – Caprilli Website
Ponce alla Livornese
Ponce alla Livornse (pronounced “pon-chay”) is the ultimate pick-me-up. It is constructed thus: take a small but thick bottomed glass called a “gottino” that is specific for Ponce. Pour in white sugar and lemon rind and add Vittori up to the top of the curved decoration on the glass. (Vittori is a mix of alcohol, sugar, dark caramel and rum aroma.) Steam this concoction with the milk steamer of the coffee machine so it mixes together in a cloud of mysterious steam. Next comes a shot of espresso. Boom. The glass is scalding so you have to hold it from the bottom where it’s still cool and drink it down hot (if you can). Then you die. But you’re happy.
You can get ponce all over Livorno and it’s great at the Baracchina Rossa but if you want to go to the place where it is said to have originated that would be Bar Civili.
Bar Civili: Via del Vigna, 55 – Civile Facebook Page
Once docked in Livorno, most ships disgorge tourists to be whisked off to Florence (sorry, Firenze) without ever seeing the city proper. Thanks to Laurenissima’s guide, there is no longer any excuse for bypassing this port. Besides, do you really want to spend just a few hours in Florence while rushing through churches and museums? Instead you could be doing like the locals and take in the cliff views while enjoying seafood.