The square and the entrance gate of the Arsenale are still the only remains of the glorious past. The imposing gate is built by A. Gambello in 1460 and is the first Renaissance building in Venice. The two stone lions guarding the entrance are stolen by commander A. Gambello from Pyraeus in Greece in 1687.
From the bridge in front of the entrance you can have a look at a part of the former shipyard. You can also take the vaporetto nr. 41 or 42 along the Arsenale to get a glimpse of the place.
The Arsenale was once the largest shipyard in the world. At its peak in the 16th century there worked 16.000 people, the so-called Arsenalotti, building and repairing the huge Venetian ships. The Arsenale had one of the first assembly productionlines in the world, which could construct a galley very fast, even within a few hours.
Approaching the Arsenale along the canal, Rio dell' Arsenale, you have a great view at the twin towers, built in the 16th century. Nowadays the Arsenale is a military area with most parts closed for visitors. I could visit the Corderia, used as exhibitionhall during the Biennale.
According to tradition the Arsenal of Venice was founded in 1104; it has been enlarged over the centuries, coming to occupy a large part of the northeast area of the city.
The term Arsenale is a corruption of the Arab word darsina’a - a house of industry - and for centuries it was the largest in the world with over 16.000 employees at its peak when there were hundreds of galley ships in its basins, ready for war.
On the wall to the right of the entranceway is a bust depicting Dante Alighieri, recalling a visit the poet made to Venice in 1321. Still mainly closed to tourism, the Arsenale is sometimes used for notably important exhibitions and trade fairs.
I can't repeat it enough, but Venice is so much more than St Mark's Square! Of course, you need to see that if you're in Venice, just don't limit yourself to that area.
My favourite area was Castello. In and around the Via Garibaldi, it is so quiet and you see harldy any tourists. Laundry drying outside, elder people taking a rest on one of the benches, ... : this is my kind of Venice!
This is excellent value for money (Euro 1.55). The building is on the waterfront (Campo S. Biagio, in Castello) and is spread over 42 galleries on five floors, containing models of boats of all kinds, and including gondolas and WWII subs and 2man torpedos. The ticket also allows you to go into the Ship Pavillion, 200 yds away, but time was against us, so we didn't see it. Some of the models were amazing - 2 - 4 metres in length
The gateway was built in 1460 in the form of the triumphal arch it was one of the e4raliest Renaissance works of the city. It re-used Greek columns.
The two lions that flank the doorway were sent from Piraeus as spoils of war in 1692!
The one on the left bears a runic inscription carved in 1040!
The Arsenale is one of the great places of the city for its history alone, for here the great ships would come that made Venice an empire. Founded in the 12th C by the 16th it was the greatest naval shipyard in the world.
The clock is on one of the two rowers protecting the entrance from the lagoon.
This is a city within a city. The quickest way to see all there is to see is to take the motorboat to the stop outside the naval history museum (to Arsenale) and head towards 'Fondamente Nuove'. At present, there is little to see: partly because the large docks are walled off, and partly because as they have been partially abandoned, to an untrained eye, it will appear as though there is nothing to see.
This (and the next picture) are taken in Castello.
This is perhaps the best area of Venice to see 'everyday life'. It's an area that doesn't have a lot of 'tourist attractions' in the normal sense, but is an area full of activity on the one hand, and peaceful 'inactivity' on the other. It's a place where the real people of Venice live, and the streets (or canals) are often festooned with washing hanging to dry, small local markets, a market barge, people attending their everyday business, small bars and cafes, quite campos, small chuches... Don't miss this area if you are here for a few days.
When you walk around Venice, try to find the way to the Arsenal. This building is really great. Lions of San Marco are the guard at the entrance. It is not allowed to enter, but you may take a look through the glass door.
To get lost. Go, for example, to Castello (past Piazza San Marco), forget your map, and walk. When you are tired, stop at a 'bacaro' for a glass of wine and a 'cicchetto'.
The only way to discover secret Venice, your own Venice.
Find the Viking runes on one of the lion's neck.....and be careful....once the lion's head detached from the body and.....
L'arsenale is a historical shipyard in which, long ago, 16000 people built ships.
The lion sculptures at the entrance were captured by Venetian admirals on the Greek Isles.
The two smaller lions that flank the door were placed here in 1718, after the relief of Corfu, and probably came from the lion terrace at Delos.