27th October 2012
While local people were invited to celebrate the opening of the new, big name clothing store in Via Grande this week, the event left me feeling sad and depressed.
Apart from the fact that this opening marks the arrival of yet another high street name familiar in most European towns and cities, and adding to the growing anonymity of Livorno's shopping centre, the most depressing part of all is that the building that houses the new fashion superstore used to be the Teatro La Gran Guardia, one of Livorno's most important theatres and cinemas.
The Gran Guardia was inaugurated in 1954 when much of Livorno was being rebuilt following massive destruction during WWII. It became an important point of reference for the city, capable of holding an audience of 1300 and functioning as a theatre, cinema, and concert hall. Over the years it hosted famous names such as Totò, Eduardo De Filippo, Dario Fo, Ugo Tognazzi, Sandra Mondaini, Raimondo Vianello, Alberto Sordi, Nino Manfredi, Walter Chiari, Vittorio De Sica, Gigi Proietti, Paolo Poli, Lino Banfi, and many others.
The theatre was closed down in 2005, together with another of Livorno's important cinemas, the Cinema Odeon, which belonged to the same owner, while a multi-screen cinema appeared out of town. For a while there was talk of the Gran Guardia reopening, but instead it has been allowed to be taken over by the Swedish multi-national H&M shopping chain, thus contributing to a general cultural impoverishment of the city.
I can't help wondering what added value this new store will bring to Livorno, and how many more small local shops will suffer as a result.
Livorno's Cinema Odeon in Largo dei Valdesi, once the biggest cinema in Italy, was also closed in 2005 to be made into a multi-storey car park which now forms an ugly backdrop to the city's Old English Cemetery.
The Metropolitan cinema in Via Marradi (now unrecognizable) also closed in the past decade and has been completely reworked. It now houses a bank.
To find out about Livorno's remaining cinemas, click here
To read a related article about the Teatro Gran Guardia, click here