The construction of the Navicelli Canal started in 1560 and finished between 1575 and 1576: it was 22 km long, 18 m wide and 1,50 m deep. The entrance was Porta a Mare in the Arno river and the end was an area now called “Venezia Nuova”, near the Port of Livorno. The name “Navicelli” originates from the typical and agile boats used in the Arno River steered by the so-called “navicellai”: up to Second World War they were the absolute protagonists of the canal traffic and since they were masters of their own ships, they often lived on the boat with the whole family.
In the eighteenth century, the course of the Canal changed: a supporting structure was built near the river mouth and it consisted of a compensation tank, separated from a lock, which lifted up to a certain water level both the incoming and the outcoming boats. In this way, eight navicelli could pass by at the same time, four incoming and four outcoming, even during the floods.
The recent history of the canal starts in 1903 thanks to the election of a Committee by the Minister of Public Works and to the great involvement of the engineer Annibale Biglieri, manager of the Civil Engineers’ Office of Pisa. Biglieri’s reconstruction project marked the beginning of a new cycle, the new modern phase of the Canal. The works finished at the end of 1938 and the canal’s look was very similar to the current look: with the long and straight course, parallel to the Pisa-Livorno railway, there was a 20% reduction of the total length, measuring now 18,2 km, and an increase of the river-bed to 31,6 m width and 3 m deep in that stretch of river between Livorno and the new Dockyard of Pisa. Furthermore, the realization of the new dockyard included up-to-date freight transport facilities, a 50.000 m2 loading areas and railway infrastructures leading to the Central Station of Pisa.
During the Second World War bombings, most of the areas surrounding the canal were completely destroyed. This led to the complete destruction of the fleet – which had been carrying on the trading until then – to the burial of the canal as well as to the destruction of the entire Porta a Mare area. The Navicelli Canal and the Port of Pisa were reopened between the Fifties and the Sixties giving the current look to the course of the river: from the reopening to this day, the transport logistics has been considerably reduced while the yachts shipbuilding industry has been widen.