The nameless house

 

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One of the first palazzi I noticed in Livorno’s Venezia was this one. Yes, the abandoned and shabby white building, squeezed in between its colourful neighbours.

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It was something with its proportions and lack of symmetry that appealed to me.

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Apart from the obvious neglect, which is something that always attracts my eye and stings my heart.

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Since my first encounter with this building I have wondered what is to become of it. Why was it abandoned? Why doesn’t anyone do something? Doesn’t someone own it? Is it just going to fall down?

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All I managed to find out is that it has no name, like the noble palazzi all around Venezia. It’s just a house that nobody seems to care about. How sad.

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But, lo and behold, a few weeks ago, scaffolding was being put up and suddenly the place was vibrating with activity!

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To me this was just as unexpected as pleasing.
And, I must admit, a bit worrying too. What will they do to the place?
A sign says the work will be finished in 15 months, so it will be interesting to follow the development.

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It takes a lot of people to take care of a house like this. Not least the supporting and cheering spectators. Whatever the time of the day, always a bunch of men watching and commenting :-)

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Finally two older images I got from a friend. First a photo taken around 1900, our house is half visible in the background. Also notice that the little tower is missing.

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Here we are in the 1930’s, the electric tower has now been built (in the style of old fortfications towers to blend into the historic setting).

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And almost the same view today. The bridge is called Ponte di Marmo (The marble bridge) and has an interesting story, read about its 300-year-old graffiti here.

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Poccianti’s Palladian villas

Pasquale Poccianti (1774-1858) was an Italian architect with a passion for Roman temples and Palladian style villas.
In Livorno you can find four buildings (as far as I know) by his pen, all from the mid 1800’s, all to do with water. Let’s have a quick look at three of them to see how similar they are, although very different in size.

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First, the largest of them all, the mighty Cisternone in the city centre, the grand cistern for Livorno’s fresh water. Hovering over Viale Carducci, it is a truly impressive sight.

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Next up is its little sister, the Cisternino, the small water cistern idyllically located in a hamlet outside Livorno, and connected to the Cisternone by aqueducts. (Just like in Roman times, but from the 19th century ;-) )

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And finally the Bagnetti della Puzzolente, a thermal establishment built around a sulphurous spring just outside town, abandoned already in the 1890’s because of the terrible malodour surrounding the place. Puzzolente means smelly!

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Mammoth columns in a rural setting…

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… and surrounded by heavy traffic.

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 Puzzolente

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The Puzzolente and Cisternino each have a triangular tympanon

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…while the Cisternone has a half spheare crowning the columns.

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The west apse of Cisternino.

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The Puzzolente apses are completely derelict, overgrown and with leaking roofs.

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The giant “ear” above the terrace of Cisternone. It is said that you could hear the sea from here, before the cars took over the city.

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And to confuse things further, this is the church of San Giuseppe, not far from the Cisternone. It’s from the same period and in the same neo classical style, but by another architect, Giuseppe Puini.

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Palaia

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After our visit to the enchanting Villa Saletta, we continued on the same road just to see where it lead. And so we found ourselves in the village of Palaia just in time for lunch.

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A sweet little place, with a civic tower that made me think of Austria or Switzerland.

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The views were impressive from this hilltop village. But it wasn’t the distant snow clad Apuan alps that caught my eye, but an ancient looking structure a bit closer.

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Yep. Definitely Romanesque. And definitely something to check out.
Coming up next.

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Villa Saletta

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Welcome to a very special place. Villa Saletta is an abandoned borgo about half an hour’s drive from Livorno. A most beautiful and magical medieval village. This daytrip was a dream come true for me, I hope you will enjoy the visit too!

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I know very little about the history of the village. It dates back to the 10th century and from the 1400’s it was owned by the Riccardi family in Florence, who were bankers and relatives of the Medici.

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The borgo consists of basically one street and one square. This wonderful tower with a crumbling clock rises above the piazza.

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The herringbone paving in front of the tower.

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To the left of the square is the villa itself.

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The entrance facing the little piazza.

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And the garden entrance with the grand staircase around the corner.

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To paraphrase the Brits: This is an area of outstanding historical beauty. Being here fills you with awe and reverent exaltation.

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One of the two village churches.

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The southern road up to the village.

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Behind the villa is the second church. And, to our surprise, this one is open for Mass every Sunday morning.

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The village is surrounded by olive groves, rural ruins and distant blue hills.

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I wonder what will happen to Villa Saletta. Rumour has it that it has been bought by a foreign developer. If I ever return, this place might look – and feel – very different.

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For a few more photos of Villa Saletta in black and white, see my blogpost Borgo fantasma.

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