The vast majority of property in and around Livorno, as in all Italian towns, is in apartment blocks, or 'condomini'. When looking at property, it is important to take into account the apartment building as a whole, as well as the area in which it is located.
Factors such as the state of repair of a building (don't forget the roof!), the floor the apartment is on, whether or not there is a lift, whether heating is independent or centralised, and what monthly condominium fees amount to, all need to be taken into consideration.
Condominium fees vary depending on the upkeep involved in a building. If there is a portiniere (whose role is usually to keep an eye on who goes in and out, as well as light maintenance duties) and/or a garden area around the building, these fees will reflect this.
Look carefully at the kind of work that needs to be carried out on an apartment, such as window frames and shutters and inside doors, and ask about wiring, and heating systems. These must all have up-to-date certifications.
Ground floor apartments can be dark, sometimes have problems with damp, and are more prone to burglaries. Higher floors are fine, if there is a lift.
Parking is also a major issue. Some apartments will have a garage of their own, others may have an assigned parking place for one or more cars, while others rely on street parking. Make sure you are aware of the parking options. Many areas now have 'residents' parking' areas, but this doesn't necessarily make parking any easier, especially in central areas, or along the seafront during the summer season. In any case, to qualify for a resident's parking permit, you must officially be a resident at the address of your property.
You should also ask about any upcoming maintenance work due on the building and be sure about how much this will cost. A new roof, or major facade work is very expensive. If there is no lift, there may be a plan to install one, which is a further expense for each apartment owner.
Note that when Italians move house, they generally take everything with them, including kitchen units and curtains. They may be willing to leave you the kitchen, but this is not usually included in the property asking price.
The area you choose to live in will depend on your needs, both in terms of type of apartment and location. The old Venezia quarter is a lovely historic area close to the city centre where apartments are mostly in big old blocks dating from the 18th and 19th centuries, most without lifts.
To the south of the city, the popular area bordering on the city centre around the Villa Fabbricotti park is a very convenient location, while the outlying 'quartieri' of Ardenza and Antignano, and further still to Montenero, are more residential but further from the city (see more details below).
The Fabbricotti area is very popular because it is so near to town, yet has its large park, small local shops, and some nice apartment blocks. However, many apartments do not have private parking, and quite a large percentage still have centralised heating systems.
Heading out of town slightly, another nice district is San Jacopo - bordering on the seafront, it gets very busy in summer, but is one of the oldest quarters with its own atmosphere, local shops, schools and restaurants and good apartment blocks. Street parking can be frustratingly difficult in the summer months when the nearby Pancaldi lido is open.
Further south still you come first to Ardenza, and then Antignano, both residential and sought after areas with a mixture of apartments - near the sea again. These are the most expensive areas. They offer a variety of local shopping and schools, as well as restaurants and bars. A bus service connects them to the city, but there is no regular service after about 8.30pm.
Montenero is also an expensive area, on the hillside to the south of Livorno, about 15 minutes' drive from the city. Property here is a mixture of smaller condominium blocks and independent villas, new and old. There are good views over the city below, but the area depends on Ardenza and Livorno itself for many facilities. It has a primary and middle school. The lower area, Montenero Basso, is served by a regular bus service during the day, while the upper part, Montenero Alto, relies on the funicular railway or private transport.
Central Livorno is easy to get around, even by bicycle. Despite having a population of 160,000, it has a comfortable small-town feel about it. It's quite easy to get to know people if you are willing to make an effort.