About five miles to the south of the city of Livorno lies the hillside village of Montenero and the Santuario di Montenero that attracts countless visitors throughout the year.
It is well worth visiting for the views over the city and the coastline, and for the interesting sanctuary which grew up around the sacred image of the Madonna di Montenero, brought here by a shepherd in the 14th century. The present building dates from the 18th century.
Apart from Sundays when it is at its busiest, it is a quiet place to retreat to from the city.
The Sanctuary Piazza di Montenero 9, opening times 7.00-12.30am and 2.30-7pm daily (until 6pm in autumn and winter).
The Sanctuary began as a small oratory in the Middle Ages and has been transformed over the centuries to become a large Basilica which was consecrated in 1818.
The 17th-century altars contain some lovely paintings by Filippo Maria Galletti, and of special note is the18th-century Cappella della Vergine (chapel of the Virgin) which houses the tabernacle and the sacred image of the Madonna of Montenero, a 14th-century painting from the Pisan school.
Do not miss the Galleria degli ex-voto which is a huge collection of votive offerings including paintings, models of ships and a variety of objects given by the faithful in thanks for being saved by the Madonna di Montenero from various disasters, from domestic accidents to storms at sea and shipwrecks.
The Temple of Fame
On the opposite side of the basilica's courtyard stands a covered arcade know as the Famedio di Montenero, built in 1860 which houses the tombs and memorials of illustrious figures from Livorno. These include the Risorgimento hero Francesco Domenico Guerrazzi, the 19th-century Livornese painter Enrico Pollastrini, and the great master Giovanni Fattori. Marble plaques commemorate the musician Pietro Mascagni and the artist Amedeo Modigliani.
How to get there: to reach Montenero from Livorno you can catch the LAM rossa bus (make sure it says Montenero on the front as it goes to two different destinations) and get off at the last stop in Piazza delle Carrozze. From here there is a funicular railway up to the sanctuary (daily every 15 minutes from 7.15am-8pm) (your bus ticket is still valid for this ride if you use it within an hour). Alternatively you can walk up the (very) steep road that leads to the Sanctuary. Buses run regularly from the station, via Via Grande, and the journey takes 40 minutes (25 from Via Grande). Buy bus tickets (biglietti) from a newspaper kiosk or a tobacconist. There are several restaurants and cafés in the square.
Another option is to hire a chauffeur driven car or van to take you around at your own pace.