Parco Pertini, the entrance gate and Poccianti's column
In 1854 architect Pasquale Poccianti completed his Giardini degli Acquedotti, better known as the Parterre, a public park which lies in the shadow of the Cisternone, the huge city water cistern that collects water from the Colognole Aqueduct. One of the first public parks in Europe, it is situated on the wide avenue which connects the city with the railway station and was a popular place for a leisurely stroll with visitors to Livorno when the city became one of the first seaside resorts in Italy.
One of the disused aviaries in the Parterre
The city received a gift of two boars for the Parterre from the mayor of Sassari (Sardinia). The two animals thrived in the park with its irregular flower beds, its network of asymmetric paths, its pools and grottoes, and soon other species were added. Between 1930 and 1935, cages were erected, and the fish pond was converted into a pit to accommodate the 'dancing' bear immortalised by Bobo Rondelli in his song Gigiballa.
When the First World War broke out, the animals were taken away and the park became an evacuee camp.
In 1948 and 1949 the park became the venue for the Festa de l'Unità during the delicate years following the attempt on Togliatti's life, and in 1950 it was finally returned to the people of Livorno as a city park.
For the next 20 years, thanks also to TV presenter Angelo Lombardi - Italy's answer to David Attenborough - the Parterre was once again populated with animals. However, in later years new legislation and defenders of animal rights deemed the park and its restricting cages to be no longer suitable as a zoo, and so its animals were gradually removed. All that remain today are a few rabbits, ducks, chickens and birds.
Detail of Poccianti's column, with the figure of the goddess Hygieia
Today, the Parterre is Livorno's largest green area. It contains a children's play area with recently added inclusive play equipment.
A beautiful column standing at the entrance to the park was once part of a fountain situated elsewhere in the city. It was also designed by Poccianti, in around 1838, and bears the figure of Hygieia, the goddess of health and cleanliness. The column appears in a painting by artist Adolfo Belimbau, now kept at the Galleria Nazionale di Arte Moderna at Palazzo Pitti, Florence.