Livorno, Italy: the birds and the ships from the farthest reaches of the sea enter the Livorno Port on a Thursday morning.
“The voice of the sea speaks to the soul. The touch of the sea is sensuous, enfolding the body in its soft, close embrace.”
~ Kate Chopin, [1850 – 1904]
Kate Chopin was an American novelist and short story writer best known for her startling 1899 novel The Awakening.
I hadn’t thought about shipping since I picked up my belongings shipped from Hawaii to Barcelona a long while ago. Yet these vessels and the arrangements to accommodate and serve them captivated my attention.
Livorno is an Italian port city of about 160,000 inhabitants on the west coast of ‘Toscana’ at the Ligurian sea. It is known for its seafood, Renaissance-era fortifications and modern harbour with a cruise ship port. My cruise ship docked at one of the industrial wharfs in Livorno Port (where all the big ships dock).
At first light, the long barges filled to drop off goods, or empty ready to be packed with goods, glided into the Port of Livorno.
As the morning progressed, activities picked up in the port.
This was my first cruise. This is a grand ship housing and serving 2,886 passengers. Notice the small barge docked next to it. Then notice the small zodiac next to the barge.
I was advised by a ship employee who loves and has lived in Italy to visit Florence or Pisa instead of Livorno. Yet having made a couple of good visits to Pisa and Florence, including an extended stay in Florence where I completed a photo-study programme during my days of film, I decided to take the opportunity to remain in Livorno.
A cruise shuttle bus service, for 5€ round trip, transported visitors into the Livorno city center and left them alongside Piazza del Municipio, opposite Livorno City Hall.
There was something for me in Livorno. While it seemed a quite ordinary village, I was called by a sort of vague, haunting sense of ‘sea presence’. As I moved along in a mental haze, considering the statues, buildings, streets, canals and boats, shops and restaurants etc., I realized that I hadn’t noticed this sort of internal sensation/vibration in the past. It was both corporeal and internal.
It was not curiosity, nor a mentally provoked interest as it usually is as I approach a new excursion. I decided to embark on a canal tour to optimize the opportunity to allow this feeling to emerge. Tranquilly, I could just BE on the sea – so to speak – and feel the ancients as I sometimes do while resting in a cathedral.
Transport is by vehicle, bicycle, boat or Vespa, and the town’s people watch as tourism passes by, and visa versa.
Children stop to watch and to offer a smile of welcome and an enthusiastic wave at the canal boats passing.
Adults also express curiosity.
While some people simply go about their tasks.
The bastions of the 16th-century Fortezza Vecchia, testament to the Medici rule, face the harbor and open onto Livorno’s canal-laced Venezia Nuova quarter. I learned that Livorno was purchased by Florence from Genoa in 1421. In the early 1500s, to populate the city, the administrators implemented laws to protect merchants. It offered opportunity to Jewish people fleeing Spain and Portugal, and encouraged newcomers from Greece, Armenia, Netherlands, France and Britain to settle in Livorno.
A long barge docked along the piazza or square.
Imagine the hustle and bustle of activity around the ports of the 15th century. It was another time of expansion in the annals of human evolution – ever changing, continuously advancing to allow new ways of being, thinking, feeling, and providing innovations in the practice of life. Now there is a new species. Robots!
Meanwhile, daily tasks such as shopping at the market continue.
The last markdowns in prices preserve and encourage reliance on commerce of all sorts.
Relate the feeling of ‘sea ’relative to the human soul, as well as to the human spirit in the evolution of commerce. Look back and thank the inventions extraordinaire of times past. Stay in balance with the simple joys of being human. Appreciate the advantages of modernity. Now, rush to the latest and greatest sale day of the year, the day after Thanksgiving!
Take leave of the soulful, soft, sensual references of the sea to the soul, and acknowledge the strength, force and power that rests within. Recognize and welcome the power of change, herein:
“We must free ourselves of the hope that the sea will ever rest. We must learn to sail in high winds.” ~ Aristotle Onassis [1906 – 1904]
Aristotle Socrates Onassis was a Greek shipping magnate. Onassis amassed the world’s largest privately owned shipping fleet and was one of the world’s richest and most famous men of the day.
Balance, always balance… Enjoy your Halloween/All Saints Day holidays!