Royal Canal - Livorno Highlight

Fosso Reale
(Royal Canal)

Photo of Fosso Reale in Livorno

Fosso Reale

Photo by R. Rosado ©

The translation of 'Fosso Reale' to English as Royal Canal is not the most accurate but that's how it become know. In fact, a 'fossato' or 'fosso' was a defensive architectural structure used in fortified cities and is be better translated as 'moat'. However, in later centuries, these structures acquired the use of canals - or means of transportation. That's exactly what happened with the 'Fosso Reale' in Livorno. It was originally designed to function as a moat to protect the original pentagonal city designed by Buontalenti. The work on this immense structure started in 1577 but it was only a decade later that under the rule of Ferdinando I (Medici) a new dynamic was imposed to the work. By the early years of 1600 more than 5,000 slaves and 2,000 peasants worked in the 'Fosso Reale', which was completed in 1609.

Image of the Urban Plan of Livorno by Buontalenti

Urban Plan by Buontalenti

Throughout its history floodgates were installed and at one point oysters were farmed in its depths although always keeping its defensive function. However, by the beginning of the 19th century most of the ramparts and defensive structures were removed, giving space for a new urban plan. By 1840, two squares crossed the 'Fosso' and opened the historical centre for expansion: the Piazza Cavour, on the south side, and the massive ‘Piazza della Repubblica’ on the east.

Along the canal, many palaces and other building of public interest were constructed as they can be seen today - like the 'Palazzo Squilloni', the 'Palazzo Reggio', the 'Palazzo Maurogordato' or the Dutch Church. Towards the end of the century, the 'Mercato delle Vettovaglie' (also know as Central Market) and the school ‘Antonio Benci’ where added.

Cruising the Canal

The canal still retains its five-sided shape today and on its eastern side is spanned by the ‘Piazza della Repubblica’ - considered the widest bridge in Europe. Besides the landmarks already mentioned it should be noted that the 'Fosso Reale' integrates the Venice Quarter with its two forts (‘Fortezza Nuova’ and ‘Fortezza Vecchia’) and all its highlights. Undoubtedly, the 'Giro in Batello' (boat rides/cruise) along the 'Fosso Reale' is the best way to explore and fully appreciate this magnificent landmark.

Fosso Reale - Map

Map of Fosso Reale in Livorno with best view points.

Getting There and Photo Ops

Considering that the 'Fosso Reale' encircles the historic centre of Livorno, the cruise ship passenger will inevitably come across it. If docked at the Proto Mediceo, when crossing the bridge to the centre, you will have great views of the Fortezza Vecchia (1 on the map). If docked at the Porto Industriale, the cruise passenger will likely get on the shuttle that stops at Piazza Municipio and the Fosso Reale is close by on Via Madonna (7 on the map). But there are many other quaint spots with impressive views of the 'Fosso' like from the bridge on the southeastern side (2 on the map).

From Piazza Cavour, which is partially a bridge over the 'Fosso', most of the southern side of the canal can be seen (3 on the map). On the southern side of the Piazza Repubblica, the entrance to the bridge can be seen (4 on the map) and on the northern side, the view of the Fortezza Nuova is a must (5 on the map). Walking along the Eastern side of the 'Fosso', passing Piazza Garibaldi and turning into the 'Venice Quarter' offers exquisite views of majestic 'Fortezza Nuova' (6 on the map). Last but not least impressive the quaint view from the 'Venice Quarter' is a great photograph (8 on the map).

WHERE: Historical Centre
When: 1577 - 1609
Architect: Bernardo Buontalenti
 Highlights: Mercatto Centrale, Piazza Repubblica, Fortezza Nuova, Venice Quarter, Fortezza Vecchia, Porto Mediceo.

NOTES: The Tourist Information Kiosk on Piazza Municipio is the best place to acquire tickets for the 'Giro in Batello' (boat rides/cruise).

Look For

The Bridge - Piazza

Photo of Piazza Repubblica Bridge in Livorno.

Photo: R. Rosado ©

One of the few places from where it can be seen the entrance of the bridge that is the Piazza della Repubblica.

Fortezza Nuova

Photo of New Fort and the Fosso Reale in Livorno.

View of the New Fort and of the Fosso Reale from a bridge in the Venice Quarter.

Fortezza Vecchia

Photo of Fortezza Vecchia on the Fosso Reale in Livorno.

Walking from the Porto Mediceo, a bridge offers great views of the Fortezza Vecchia in the background.

Cruising the Fosso Reale

Photo of boat cruising the Fosso Reale in Livorno.

The best way to explore and fully enjoy the Fosso Reale is on a boat ride with multilingual guides.

Giro in Batello Website

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Last Update: January 20, 2016

The information on this page was accurate when last updated and published but changes may have occurred without notice.
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