Meloria Tower – Livorno, Italy - Atlas Obscura

Meloria Tower

Livorno, Italy

A strange-looking 18th-century tower sits on a tiny islet just off Livorno.  

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Just off the town of Livorno, in Tuscany, there is a rocky shoal known as Meloria. Now part of a marine protected area, in ancient times this skerry constituted a dangerous hazard for ships navigating the area. For this reason, in 1157, the Pisans built a lighthouse on one of the rocks that breached the surface, to signal the presence of the shoal.

Meloria was the site of a large battle in 1284 between the armies of Pisa and Genoa, and later, in 1286, the Genoese destroyed the lighthouse. It was rebuilt in 1598 on order of the Grand Duke of Tuscany Ferdinando I de’ Medici, but it was soon destroyed again, this time by a storm.

The current structure dates back to 1709, was built under Cosimo III de’ Medici, and is characterized by its unusual appearance: four quadrangular pillars connected by Gothic arches. Atop the arches is a 49-foot tower. But it wasn’t designed to look odd, but rather to protect the tower by allowing crashing waves to flow through it. The shoal is marked by two other functional lighthouses built in the 1950s on separate islands, one near the tower and the other several miles to the north.