I’m happy to admit that I allowed myself to get somewhat lost in Livorno.
This is the kind of town that is happy to go by it’s own business for the majority of the year.
Tourists (like me) come and go without making much of a mark on the surroundings. This isn’t the kind of place that attracts thousands of people each year. It’s not packed with ‘must-see’ sights. There’s no Lonely Planet guide and there isn’t a standing garrison of snap-happy travellers taking selfies for their budding travel blogs. Livorno reminds me in a lot of ways of one of our own English seaside towns. If it weren’t for the splendid, perennial sunshine that blesses the streets on a daily basis, you could almost describe it as rather humdrum – perhaps this is why I’ve lingered for so long.
With little or no plan as to where I was heading next, this felt like the best place to hunker down and get some thinking done.
When you have all the time in the world to figure out your next move, you’d be surprised how long that can actually take. Before I knew it, I’d settled myself into a quiet room in the back of a coffee shop that I’d become a frequent visitor of. It was cheaper than a hotel, had all the amenities that I required and I could hear the tide softly knocking the rusted boats of the harbour from my bed, an arrhythmic beat that would help lull me to sleep on a nightly basis.
It might not have been the Ritz, but this beat any luxury villa in the South of France.
My days in Livorno kept to a similar arrhythmic routine – the bell hanging above the shop front chimes anywhere between 6:30 and 8am, signalling the start of the working day for my hosts. The smell of espresso brings me to my feet and I share drowsy conversation with whoever’s opening the shop. We discuss the weather and their dramatic family lives whilst they go about their morning routines – my Italian has improved a lot since I struck out by myself, daily conversations with people in the town have given me a new insight into the way facial expressions and hand gestures pick up much of the slack in the morning, when words are often a struggle.
I make myself scarce once the shop fills up with gruff workmen, starting their day with strong caffe correttos. I bid farewell to the busy barista and head out to find some food. I follow a well-worn trail throughout the day, around the town’s limited sights and viewpoints. With a worn paperback in my hand, I wander from spot to spot, reading and eating a little – every now and again popping in to chat to a friendly vendor.
I usually find myself skipping lunch most days, but as late afternoon gives way to early evening, I wander down to the seafront where I spend half an hour or so discussing the day’s catch with the fisherman there.
After some polite chit-chat (Italian fishermen hold themselves with the same air of an officious businessman, no effing or blinding as far as I can tell) I purchase a brace of small fish, or a decent sized cod and trundle back to the shop around closing time. The closing barista is usually in a lively mood, excited about their impending evening and overzealous with the copious numbers of espresso shots that they would have self-medicated themselves with over the course of the day. I pass over half of the fish, in lieu of my rent and bid them a good night.