Fosso Real
Top Highlight in Livorno
Cruise Port Guide (Review, 2022)

The Fosso Reale is a landmark to visit on a cruise to Livorno. Find out: how to get there; map; basic info and boat tours.

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The translation of 'Fosso Reale' to English as Royal Canal is not the most accurate, but that's how it is now known.

Photo of Fosso Reale in Livorno

Fosso Reale

Photo ©


  1. Overview
  2. Practical Info
  3. How to get there
  4. Fosso Reale Map
  5. Boat Tours

A 'fossato' or 'Fosso' was a defensive architectural structure used in fortified cities, and its translation is 'moat' - however, in later centuries, these structures acquired the use of canals - or means of transportation. That's what happened with the 'Fosso Reale' in Livorno.

Overview and History

The Fosso Reale 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

Photo: Public Domain

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 center for expansion: the Piazza Cavour, on the south side, and the massive ‘Piazza della Repubblica’ on the east.

Photo of Piazza Repubblica Bridge in Livorno

Bridge under Piazza Repubblica

Photo ©

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.

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.

Photo of Fortezza Nuova in Livorno

Fortezza Nuova

Photo ©

Practical Info

Where: Historical Centre
When: built between 1577 and 1609
Architect: Bernardo Buontalenti
Highlights: Mercatto Centrale, Piazza Repubblica, Fortezza Nuova, Venice Quarter, Fortezza Vecchia, Porto Mediceo.

Getting There and Photo Ops

Considering that the 'Fosso Reale' encircles the historic center of Livorno, the cruise ship passenger will inevitably come across it.

Fosso Reale - Map

Map of Fosso Reale in Livorno with best view points.

If docked at the Porto Mediceo, when crossing the bridge to the center, 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).

Photo of Fortezza Vecchia in Livorno

Fortezza Vecchia

Photo ©

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).

Photo of Boat Cruising the Fosso Reale in Livorno.

Boat Cruising the Fosso Reale

Photo ©

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).

Boat Tours

Undoubtedly, the 'Giro in Batello' (boat rides/cruise) along the 'Fosso Reale' with multilingual guides is the best way to explore and fully appreciate this magnificent landmark.

Photo of Boat Cruising the Fosso Reale in Livorno.

Boat Cruising the Fosso Reale

Photo ©

To learn more about the boat tours in the Fosso Reale check our sightseeing review.

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