The Museo Storico Navale

The military and civil history of seafaring, which proved a deciding factor in Venice’s past economic power.

Venice is bursting with museums, from the Doge’s Palace to the Ca’ Rezzonico museum, the Gallerie dell’Accademia, and many others that will satisfy any visitor’s curiosity no matter where their interests lie.

But none of this would exist if Venice’s merchantnavy and navy hadn’t made it the maritime power that it was.

It’s an important link that you’ll fully grasp when you visit one of the museums that I’ve visited the most and loved ever since I was a little boy living nearby: the Museo Storico Navale.

This extraordinary museum, which recently reopened its doors after a few years undergoing renovations, is just a stone’s throw from St Mark’s Square.

Even the building housing the museum is a part of the city’s history, dating back to the 15th century and formerly having been used as a granary. Inside, its five floors are packed with items from every aspect of the city’s maritime history, from cannons of all shapes and sizes to swords, uniforms, the flags flown on old vessels and, for real enthusiasts, Italian naval artifacts from the two world wars.

The museum is also home to ancient and more modern navigational instruments as well as models of sailing ships, including an interesting, detailed model of a galley and modern military, passenger and cargo ships. There are finds pulled out of the sea, scale models and illustrations of the Venetian forces along the Adriatic and Aegean coastlines and, on the walls, old seafaring prints and views of Venice, most notably of the dockyards and armouries where mass production was taking place before the term was even coined.

Make sure not to miss the gondola hall, which tells you all about how these boats are built and the different types, and the rooms exhibiting models of the typical vessels used in the lagoon for various purposes, from fishing to transport.

The museum is divided into two sections, each within walking distance of the other, with the Ships Pavilion, near the main gate of the Arsenale area, housing numerous boats that have ploughed through the waters of the lagoon.

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