In July, Livorno breathes in an air of sea, festivals and traditions. If the Mascagni Terrace fills up with a noisy enthusiastic crowd, this is probably the day of the Palio Marinaro, the folkloristic event that concludes the season of the Livorno Rowing Races.
In fact, in the days preceding the Palio, other rowing competitions are held: the Risiatori Cup and the Barontini Cup, in addition to the Mini Palio, dedicated to the new aspirants under 18, who compete on the eight “gozzette”, smaller four-oared boats.
However, the Palio Marinario is probably the most popular race for the Livorno citizens. It is a spectacular race held in a 2 km stretch of sea, between the Port of Livorno and the Bagni Pancaldi: the eight districts that represent the districts of the city challenge each other.
The competition lasts ten minutes: the eight boats, called “gozzi”, compete around the buoys to win the victory. Ten rowers compete on the gozzi led by a helmsman who, like an orchestra conductor, guides and coordinates them, and above all encourages them as hard as possible.
The victory, sanctioned by the delivery of the cups, also includes a lap of honour along the Fossi, the characteristic water channels of the historic centre of Livorno. The district that wins three editions, even if not consecutive, is entitled to a symbolic banner painted for the occasion by an artist: the Palio.
The roots of the Palio Marinaro of Livorno are to be found in the link that the city has always had with the sea: it would in fact be the re-enactment in the open sea of the regattas that five centuries ago, on the occasion of great events, were held in front of the Old Fortress. with Cosimo de’ Medici first among the spectators. Although many aspects of the race have changed today, the Palio is still a symbol of the seafaring spirit of the Livorno inhabitants, an unmissable party at sea that brings ancient traditions to life.