In the immediate southern suburbs of Livorno, overlooking the hamlet of Antignano, rises the Colle di Montenero, on which summit there is a Sanctuary, called the Madonna di Montenero, dating back to the 14th century.
Montenero is among the most famous places in Tuscany, particularly due to the Sanctuary, dedicated to the Madonna delle Grazie. It offers a panoramic view of incomparable beauty. It lies on a hill 300 meters high above sea level. The name is due to an old legend that described this place as a tenebrous mountain, perhaps because it was covered with rugged mountains and infested by corsairs and brigands.
The Sanctuary was built in the 14th century when the image of the Madonna was found by a shepherd near the Ardenza, where the evocative Chapel of the Apparition now stands in memory. The current aspect of Santurario has arrived through different periods: parts are from the 1500s, others from the 1700s, the bell tower is from 1820. It is governed by the PPs. Benedictines of the Congregation of Valleombrosa founded by San Giovanni Gualberto around 1036. In his time there were valuable works of art: the Flemish dossal of the century. XV, the Crucifixion; the ancient marble altar; the artistic laminate in gold laminate; the ex-voto of Giovanni Fattori: that of Renato Natali; the precious gold ceiling of 1600 etc.
To satisfy the demand for transport between the base of the hill and the summit, a funicular was built from the beginning of the century. The presentation of the "funicular tramway" project by the Livornese Society of Electric Traction and the inauguration of the plant, , which was then supplemented by a tram line connecting the funicular to the city center, dates back to June 1907.
To go up to Montenero and to the Sanctuary is the most pleasant, fast and safe way of transport, with the guarantee of absolute environmental protection. What was planned for the future of this plant, has now come true with the implementations designed in 1999, and implemented in 2000.
Montenero, inhabited by man since the Neolithic age, witnessed by the numerous artifacts found on its slopes and in particular those of 1855 at the "Buca delle Fate", in ancient times this hill (today called Monte Nero) was known as the Monte del Diavolo, due to the presence of a thick wood that aroused fear in travelers. Administered directly by the "Capitanato" of Livorno and became an important hunting band of the Medici (1618), it was a forced passage area for the road that went down from Livorno towards Rosignano Marittimo and the Maremma until, in the first half of the XIX century, it was the old "Romito" coast road has been enlarged and rectified.
Its development is due to the construction of the Marian Sanctuary, heavily reworked and enlarged starting from the eighteenth century. It was in this period that Montenero also became a sought-after resort with the construction of numerous villas, so much so that Carlo Goldoni set the comedy The Adventures of Holiday. Among these residences we remember the Villa delle Rose, where George Gordon Byron stayed, whose presence is attested since the end of the seventeenth century, the Villa del Buffone, originally built as a Medici farmhouse, the Villa Carboni (XVIII century) and that of the Pianacce, located on the street of the same name and of seventeenth-century origin.
The touristic vocation of the hill should have also materialized in the construction, at the beginning of the twentieth century, of a luxurious resort for holidays: in reality the enterprise was carried out only to a small extent, with the sole construction of a villa due to the style Liberty (the so-called Villa Azzurra) that still today precedes the arrival in the square of Montenero. In the same period the funicular was put into operation to connect the lower part of the locality (Montenero Basso) with the top of the inhabited area (Montenero Alto) and its Sanctuary. Simultaneously with the funicular, the tramway of the Pianacce was also activated, a peculiar line of the Livorno tramway network, which was active until the early 1930s.
During Fascism, under Costanzo Ciano, the hamlet hosted several car races with the best riders in the world (Coppa Ciano) and, in 1937, the competition was valid for the Italian Grand Prix. The same Ciano, at his death, should have been buried in a mausoleum on the slopes of the hill, but the outbreak of the Second World War interrupted the work forever.
From 15 May 1947, every year, all the Tuscan dioceses go to the Sanctuary of Montenero to donate the holy oil to the "Mater Etruriae".
For further infos and timetables: CTT Funicolare Livorno