Photo ©Fabiana Matteini
Discover Livorno with the family
Livorno Aquarium: sharks, turtles and other wonders of nature
Maria Luisa Roncarolo
by Maria Luisa Roncarolo /en/authors/maria-luisa-roncarolo/

Livorno is the city of cacciucco, the port and Medici moats, of the artist Modigliani and the songwriter Piero Ciampi, the Terrazza Mascagni and the neighbourhood made foamous by the movie Ovosodo by the Livorno-born director Paolo Virzì.

Over the last few years, the city has been rediscovering its tourist vocation, but few people consider it a family destination.

In reality, Livorno offers several opportunities for those travelling with children, like the beautiful aquarium, located on the boardwalk, close to the panoramic Terrazza Mascagni: 33 exhibition tanks, a tunnel with eagle rays, the tactile pool and a new itinerary with insects, reptiles and amphibians on the first floor.

The reptile house

The reptile house houses a colourful chameleon, an iguana, a centipede, stick bugs, dart frogs, horned frogs and tortoises.

In March 2018, a large formicary was inaugurated, with leafcutter ants who work tirelessly to transport leaf fragments through long, transparent, plastic tubs that run throughout the room. All this work has a purpose, because the ants feed on a fungus that they “farm” with the leaves they collect and bring to their nest.

From the formicary, visitors can access the panoramic terrace to enjoy a view of the sea off the coast of Livorno.

Entrance to this area is included in the ticket price.

Ground floor

The ground floor houses the aquarium, with a long route that leads visitors on a discovery of various sea animals. The blue light, portholes and large pool dedicated to the Indian Ocean, where sharks and giant turtles swim undisturbed, make the visit especially evocative and thrilling for children.

The turtles Ari and Cuba are the guests of honour at the aquarium, and visitors are sure to find themselves enchanted as they watch them twirl through the water. There are also blacktip reef and zebra sharks, as well as the funny humphead wrasse, or Napoleon fish.

A tank dedicated to kelp, an Anglo-Saxon term for several species of Macroalgae capable of growing several meters in height to form a veritable underwater forest, was also recently inaugurated. Each forest can consist of several algal species and is home to an incredible amount of animal species that adapt to the various types of existing habitats. These environments, in nature, are distributed mainly in the temperate and polar zones of the oceans, although there is one near the tropical coast of Ecuador.

Diacinto Cestoni room

In the Diacinto Cestoni room, you can admire crustaceans from the Mediterranean Sea, as well as sea urchins, octocorallia andspiny starfish. In the next rooms, other types of colourful starfish are on display in all their glory, together with fish from the Livorno coast. Rays and brills swim around a large, sandy pool, where they try to blend in with the “sea” floor. The tactile pool allows careful children to touch the fish as they wriggle around.

A panel explains that they must be brushed delicately and only on their backs, and they can’t, of course, be grabbed by their tails.

There are tons of colourful examples of the tropical fish that children fell in love with watching the film Finding Nemo, like clownfish and anemones, as well as seahorses, cardinalfish and scabbardfish.

It’s incredible to watch as eagle rays “fly” about your head, stupendous fish that seem to possess wings and which live in the Adriatic Sea.

The last tank on the ground floor is home to dentexes, bass, groupers and gilt-head bream, but what makes it unique is that it contains the wreckage of an ancient ship. 

Jellyfish and plastic

A tank entirely dedicated to these fascinating, sinuous animals that are carried by the current inside two porthole-shaped tanks.

Being planktonic animals, jellyfish is carried by currents in exactly the same way as plastic waste with which they can be confused.

Every year, many sea turtles make this mistake, which is precisely why the aquarium promotes a more conscious and environmentally friendly handling of plastic. The jellyfish tank aims to highlight and raise awareness of this topic, following in the footsteps of aquariums around the world.

Terrazza Mascagni

Lastly, a side note about the Terrazza Mascagni: this isn’t exactly a terrace, but rather a piazza overlooking the sea with two unique features: the 4,100 small columns that form a scenic balustrade and the checkerboard pavement counting 34,800 tiles. It’s surely one of the most fascinating places in Livorno!