19km (12 miles) S of Pisa; 95km (59 miles) W of Florence; 315km (195 miles) NW of Rome

Livorno is like a blue-collar Tuscan Venice, a busy port city second only to Florence in size and graced with canals and some of the Italian peninsula's best seafood restaurants. Its seaside promenade was once the dreary banks of the port, but has seen a rebirth over the past decades with new bars and cafes opening every year. The overhauled waterfront and its centerpiece, the checkerboard Terrazza Mascagni has had a profound effect on Livornese life. For one thing, bar life has gravitated south to take advantage of the emerging seaside energy. It's here you'll also find the city's best ice cream, at Gelateria Popolare, Via Meyer 11 (tel. 0586-260-354).

Other than eating and hanging out, there isn't much to grab a photo-snapping tourist's attention. The city is unique in Tuscany because there are very few churches to speak of and just one significant museum -- of 19th- and 20th-century paintings by artists of the Macchiaioli movement, a Tuscan forerunner of French Impressionism.

You'll see posters in town of a tower sprouting from cobalt-blue waters apparently in the middle of the sea. Actually, this watchtower, Meloria, is resting on a barely submerged reef about 5km (3 miles) offshore. It was here, in 1284, that Genoa's navy thoroughly trounced the Pisan fleet, signaling the beginning of Pisa's slow decline under Genoese maritime dominance.