Very interesting museum within a pleasant walk along the Grand Canal from Piazza San Marco (in the direction of the Lido) but far enough away to feel removed from the crowds. The nearest vaporetto stop is Arsenale, but we elected to get off at the Giardini stop further from San Marco and enjoy a nice stroll along the canal backtracking to the museum which is entered from the Grand Canal side of the building.
The collection spans several floors accessed by stairs near the entrance and the museum was larger inside than we expected from its outward appearance. Displays span numerous eras including from the early history of Venice through the Austrian, WW2, and more recent eras. Display descriptions are primarily in Italian with labels also in English and some English translations of some of the more detailed descriptions.
We enjoyed the two hours we spent here and felt like we walked past many displays that could have captured much more extensive interest by naval history buffs. There’s so much here that we likely walked past some very significant pieces as we browsed and some additional orientation materials might have been helpful to help those of us without a detailed preconception of Venetian naval history to appreciate better the significance of some of the collection. We were awed, for example, by the decorative remnants of the last bucintoro ceremonial state galley (used in the “marriage of the sea” ceremonies by Venetian doges) that had been saved from Napoleon’s destruction in 1798.
The museum is closed by early afternoon and on Sundays so check beforehand when planning your visit (http://www.marina.difesa.it/EN/history/museums/Pagine/museostoriconavale.aspx). Unfortunately the adjoining Arsenale itself is closed to the public except from some special events, as it remains an active Italian Navy base. Free lockers are provided for storing bags. This excellent museum is well worth a visit for an appreciation of Venice’s historical ties to the sea and naval power that once made it one of the most powerful cities in the world.
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