Venice’s Rich Naval History: The Museo Storico Navale

If it weren’t for this type of warfare, Venice would not have been built at all.

Most people know Venice as a romantic getaway, the popular honeymoon destination filled with gondolas, canals, and quintessential Italian houses. Venice is not typically remembered for its naval strength but rather its magnificent architecture. But if it weren’t for this type of warfare, Venice would not have been built at all.

Although there is no official record of Venice’s origins, tradition and evidence both suggest that the first Venetians were refugees from Roman cities near the lagoon seeking shelter from the Germanic and Hun invasions. They chose the original marshy lagoon for its inaccessibility, for it was surrounded by water on all sides. Venice’s inhabitants decided to master the water. They would use the water to their advantage and learn to manipulate it via ships and sails. A visit to the Museo Storico Navale in Venice only costs around two Euros, yet not too many tourists go. It is filled with many souvenirs of Venice’s past wars: canons, swords, model ships, real ships, medals and plaques. They are scattered throughout the five floors of the building. There are entire walls lined with plaques, adorned with what appear to be family crests (with the exception of a few puzzling ones, like that of Snoopy.) The models are intricate in detail, down to the little model sailors frozen mid-pull of the oar. In the same room, the real oars are presented, complete with the benches removed from their ships to be attached to the floors. There are even mannequins adorned with the uniforms of sailors past. It is amazing how rich in history Venice truly is, and how traditions are still maintained. Every year, Venice celebrates its naval history with events like Mare Maggio. It is a festivity that opens the Arsenale for three days, allowing visitors a glimpse inside the military zone.

There is also the Vogalonga, a day in which Venetians (though all are invited to participate) protest against motorboats and the damage they cost. The Venetians board rowboats and venture through the canals in them. The festivities start early. Boats set off from in front of the Doge’s Palace at eight thirty in the morning. Visitors can no doubt see the immense pride Venice takes in its cities and its accomplishments. I would be proud to call Venice my home.

Becky Chao

A graduate from Duke University, Becky lived in Venice for several months. She traveled throughout Italy, Barcelona and other countries in Europe.

Jetset Times in your inbox

Sign-up for our newsletter

By signing up, you agree to our Privacy Policy and European users agree to the data transfer policy.