Grand Hotel Palazzo, Livorno, Italy
What’s so great about this pool?
Possibly one of the most relaxing pools we have ever reviewed, you could sit here all day looking down on the seafront of Livorno, dipping into the cool waters of this lush pool and feeling very, very priveleged. The atmosphere poolside is intimate – there are not many sunbeds and so the pool area feels somehow private.
- This is a glass-sided infinity rooftop pool – oh it is swish.
- Looking out over the classic balustrade affords you fabulous views of the Mediterranean straight ahead and of the port of Livorno to the right.
- We’re talking small but perfect: our editor managed five breast strokes per length of this pool. And it is not deep – perhaps 1m.
- It is a heated pool, although the temperature of the water is a tad on the cool side. If you do have moments of hesitation upon entry, we’re willing to bet that they won’t last long.
- There are two bubble jet spots, which are quite strong.
- Children are welcome.
- There is a bar right by the pool and you can drink poolside – nibbles were brought on request and the bar sells sandwiches – handy should you not to wish to move from pool heaven for several hours.
- A just of minted iced water is on-hand for pool guests
- The loungers are wooden and comfortable and there are plenty of side tables between them for resting books and magazines and poolside drinks.
- A five Euro charge is made to guests, ostensibly for a towel, but without the towel there is no entry to the pool.
What about the hotel?
We’re talking high ceilings and high standards. The Grand Hotel Palazzo Livorno is a boutique hotel in the MGallery by Sofitel portfolio. It is situated on the happening sea front where young Livornese gather of an evening for gelato and a promenade on Terrazza Mascagni. Breakfast is taken on the terrace with views of the sea, and is a lush buffet. There’s a spa on the lowerground floor, with a 37 degree pool that makes it popular in winter. The only gripe is the five Euro daily charge for towels by the pool. But there’s no way you wouldn’t pay it to get up there and dip and relax. All. Day. Long.
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What else is there to do around there?
Livorno is not holiday resort but it is well worth a week’s visit – you will experience so much of what Italy has to offer, without the crowds of the tourist destinations. The best gelato, wonderful cheap restaurants, a lively evening atmosphere and slices of real Italian life, including the Italian determination to enjoy the sea, even in this huge port.
There are no beaches, but directly opposite the Hotel Grand Palazzo is the Bagni Pancaldi, a bathing spot built in the mid 19th century. Meandering among the rocks, sea pools of various depths have been carved out and sunbed areas laid out, and this is where the people of Livorno, young and old, head to for a day’s relaxation by the sea. The cafes are good. The old women bring their crochet. The kids bring their toys and the teens hang out with their friends. It’s wonderful.
Livorno doesn’t have the greatest shops on Via Grande, the main street, but dispersed among the back streets are a wealth of excellent finds with great fashion and cafes. The food market is the biggest indoor one of its kind in Europe and is a magnificent place for a morning cappucino.
The Museo Civico Giovanni Fattori is a must-see – in beautiful Villa Mimbelli, it houses wonderful work by Tuscan artists and is set in pretty parkland just a street or so back from the seafront.
The port of Livorno was bombed to bits in the Second World War, which is why so much of the centre is modern. A tour of the port is fun, taking you through what is known as the canals of New Venice. Don’t miss the Quattro Mori statue at the top of Via Grande – it’s a magnificent work portraying four Moorish slaves – have a coffee at one of the street cafes nearby to ponder its magnificence and meaning.
Finally, Florence is day-trip distance (just over an hour by train) – perfect.