For centuries, the Arsenal of Venice (l’Arsenale) has been the industrial hearth of the Republic and one of the oldest factories in the world. It included a real assembly line.
The Arsenal supported the sea power of the Republic of Venice. Ships and warships built here granted to Venice the military strength to fight Turks and the economic force to commerce all over the Mediterranean.
The importance of the Arsenal is proved by the fact it occupies almost 15% (46 hectares) of the whole territory of Venice. When fully operational, The number of workers reached 2000 people, they were called Arsenalotti.
The name derives from an Arabic word meaning “place of production”, later Italianised into Arsenale.
A first Arsenal was built at the beginning of the XII century, which was just a very simple industrial area.
Later it became a real factory and many buildings and new areas were added. It had everything is needed to produce a warship: The Fonderie, The Corderie, the Officine dei Remi and the Artiglieria (Artillery).
The wood was provided by the forests in the nearby mainland, which was also under the venetian control.
The two main warships built there were the galee and the galeazze, which played a main role during the battle of Lepanto in 1571.
Under the Austrian domination and later under the Reign of Italy, the Arsenal of Venice became too small for the needs of modern ships.
During WWII it was occupied by germans, which built many bunker anti-aircrafts still visible nowadays.
Today, almost half of Arsenal is still under the control of the navy, which has an important research and study place here.
Arsenal is still a nice and active part of Venice, thanks to Biennale and the Naval Museum.
The role of Arsenal has shifted from war to culture. Every two years, it hosts the worldwide famous Biennale of Art, a modern art exposition which gathers artists and visitors from everywhere.
Last Biennale was held in 2017 and it was seen by more than 600.000 people!!
During Biennale, everyone can visit the Arsenale which deserves, alone, a tour. It is indeed an open-air museum.
The Arsenal was even mentioned in the Divina Commedia by Dante Alighieri, and if he described it, you should pay a visit without hesitation! 🙂