The old port was originally to the east of the ancient centre of the city of Bari, as certified by early historical documents which attest to its existence but do not reveal its exact setting or size. Reference is made to a fully equipped port to the east of the city which, it is assumed, corresponded to today’s area between the two wharf of St. Anthony and St. Nicholas. It has been established that until the second half of the 14th century the port functioned efficiently, even if the fortified structure of the St. Anthony Tower and the jetty required repairs due to structural damage caused by storms.
Although the coastline of the period was set further back than today’s shore, the two piers were almost certainly longer than their modern-day equivalents, in particular St. Anthony Wharf. This was larger towards the north due to the presence of a strip of rocky land, referred to in a number of 17th century documents as an island or mount. This island of Monte Rosso was equipped with mooring structures for boats.
Up until the beginning of the 19th century, the two piers were the only protected docking areas in the city until the new port was built to the north of the town in the second half of the century.
Today both piers are provided with wharfs, ramps and storage huts for fishermen.
The St. Anthony Wharf extends towards the sea from the Fortino, the eastern rampart of the ancient walled city. The smaller southern pier is named after San Nicola; at its far end there is the Circolo Canottieri Barion rowing club, designed by the architect Saverio Dioguardi. It is a building rich in nautical references such as its rounded forms, porthole windows and terrace balustrades.