‘Better a death in the family, then a Pisan at the door’. So, goes and old Livornese saying.
25km’s, it’s all that separates the Tuscan cities of Pisa and Livorno, but in reality, the two are divided by centuries of hate, suspicion and a general loathing of one another. For the people of Pisa, the natives of the port city are seen as vulgar and rude while those from Livorno see their Pisan cousins as snobbish and stupid.
Many believe that the rivalry dates to around the 16th century, with Livorno being only on a tiny fishing village prior to this century. That however was to change thanks to a certain powerful Florentine family, the Medici’s. With the port in the city of Pisa beginning to silt, the family required a new harbour to further their business empire, Livorno was chosen and Bernardo Buontalenti was commissioned to design it along with expanding the city itself.
Work began and by the year 1606 Livorno had been decreed with city status. Understandably the port and by extension the city began to flourish as it attracted trade from all across the Mediterranean. For Pisa though the growth of Livorno had a negative impact, seeing the decline of their own port until it eventually was left in poor maintenance by those who once relied upon it to flog their wares.
For Pisa to survive it needed to find a new niche and that it did becoming a city of art, aristocrats and institutes of great learning. Today the rivalry remains strong as evidenced by a furore that blew up in 2012. In an attempt to help balance and ever-increasing deficit the Government of the time declared that provincial capitals would be merged to create a single province.
It was news that did not go down well with the locals of Pisa and Livorno, whose fierce pride in their city and dislike for each other meant neither was willing to play subservient to the other.
With this loathing for each other a thing of daily life then it should come as no surprise that the rivalry also spills over into the world of calcio and this weekend it is about to renew acquaintance once more. While most fans will have their eye turned to the early Saturday kick off in Serie A the fans of the Amaranto make the short hop over to the Stadio Garibaldi hoping to extend their eight-point lead at the top of Serie C Girone A, whilst also denting the any hope that second place Pisa have of catching them.
On the pitch it has been a tumultuous number of years for these two, Livorno saw themselves rapidly decline, dropping as they did all the way from Serie A to the third tier. While the season before last did see promotion to Serie B achieved for Pisa they immediately dropped back down, and the last decade has been generally characterised as one of mediocrity and financial unstableness.
The good form of both sides this season however has seen enthusiasm reborn amongst the faithful, with Pisa having the fourth and Livorno the fifth highest average attendance across the three groups of Serie C. Indeed, despite suffering relegation last year, Pisa’s average crowd is up by 3.6% while Livorno’s is up a whopping 27.8%.
Naturally anticipation for the match is high, as seen by the fact that Pisa have been heavily promoting the game on their social media accounts for over a week. Almost to the point where one could easily have forgotten that had a quite crucial match away to Pro Piacenza on Monday night. A match in which they won easily but could have slipped up in due to the obvious distractions.
All this means that a 14:30 on Saturday afternoon the old decaying, concrete bowl of a stadium that is the Garibaldi will be shaking as the players of the Nerazzurri and Amaranto take to the field. A game of football it may just be, but this is one steeped in over 400 years of history. A rivalry that can match many of more prestigious names around the country.
‘Better a death in the family than a Pisan at the door’ say the Livornese, ‘The Pisan’s dream is to wake at noon, look to the sea and see Livorno no more,’ comes the reply. A lot rides on this Derby del Tirreno, expect fireworks on and off the pitch.