The Venice Naval Historical Museum (Museo Storico Navale) has at last reopened after a long period of closure due to the restoration of many items, the Bucentaur above all. Located in Riva San Biasio, the museum is housed in a 15th-century building which used to be the granary of the Venice Arsenale.
The visit is a trip through the long and glorious naval history of Venice but also offers a glimpse over the shorter but rather dense history of the Italian Navy. In fact, at the entrance, on the right is the funeral monument of Angelo Emo – the last “Capitano da mar” who was both an excellent commander and an ingenious inventor (his is the floating battery, of which a model is exhibited) – and on the left is a low-speed human torpedo that dates back to the 1940s. On the ground floor there is also a collection of eighteen wooden models of Venetian fortresses of the Adriatic and the Aegean Seas.
The first floor is dedicated to the maritime history of the Repubblica Serenissima. You can admire an impressive reconstruction of a war galley, in use until the mid-16th century; a “galeazza”, a newer and bigger type of galley used against the Turks at Lepanto (1571); the “Bucentaur”, the ceremonial ship used on Ascension Day for the “marriage of the sea” when the Doge threw a ring into the water. The last barge was destroyed by the French in 1798 and in 2008 works for its rebuilding started.
The rooms on the second floor are dedicated to the Italian Navy with models, paintings and memorabilia. On the third floor you come across the gondola that belonged to Peggy Guggenheim, the American millionaire in love with Venice, which stands out among some characteristic boats of the Venetian lagoon. The top floor includes the so-called Swedish Hall that testifies the good relations between Sweden and Italy. Finally, a precious collection of seashells donated by the designer Roberta di Camerino.
Also of great interest is the Pavilion of the Ships (included in the museum ticket), located in the ancient Officina dei Remi (the plant where oars were manufactured), where are exhibited some actual typical Venetian boats, ancient ceremonial gondolas, lagoon, military, and racing boats, such as the famous racer “Asso” of the 1930s.
On occasion, also the church of San Biagio ai Forni can be visited. It serves as the chapel of the Navy and houses the body of Admiral Emo.
To better understand the importance of the Venetian navy, also visit the part of the ancient Arsenal open to the public when the Biennale is on (this year until November 25).
Grazie to author Giacomo for this post. Giacomo is a Prontopia Local who enjoys sharing his passion for the city and helping visitors to get where they need to go easily. Sign up for Prontopia today for a stress-free and fun experience getting around, whether that is to the museums that are off the beaten path on time, from the train station to your lodging, or to a special restaurant reservation or tour meeting point. We hope to welcome you in Venice the local way soon!