At the base of supremacy of Venice there was its the ability to build many fast and powerful ships.
The secret was the Arsenale shipyard. This was truly the heart of Venice. Here were built ships until World War I. It is little known but among the latest ships built at shipyard stands the famous Amerigo Vespucci, that later become school ship of Italian Navy.
Before the Arsenale, ships were built in a small shipyards – the so called “squeri” – that were scattered throughout the city. Shortly after 1200 a decisive step to was taken to gather, concentrate and to organize the know-how and skills, of dozens of small businesses in a single area. For the next 400 years the Arsenal expanded to finally reach an impressive size spanning an area of about 45 ha (110 acres), or about fifteen percent of Venice ; what we see today represents but a fraction of what it was at its height.
Europe’s the largest industrial complex prior to the Industrial Revolution, the Aresenale also represents the world’s first assembly line dedicated to the production of galleys. Just as in modern factories, the production cycle was subdivided into different departments, standardized production practices were introduced and strict quality control of raw materials was employed. It is said that in 1574, as witnessed by the King of France Henry II, Arsenale workers were able to build an entire galley – in the same time it took to finish a banquet.
The arsenal is the only part of Venice surrounded by a strong wall, built to protect the secrets that made great the SERENISSIMA –Venice’s nickname. Galleys were built at that time, and were between 35 and 40 meters long. With a width not exceeding 15 meters, galleys looked like long huge canoes adapted to glide on the surface of the water.
Maneuverability, speed, and safety, these characteristics made the venetian galley ships ideal for the transport of valuable cargo. Crews totaled between 200 and 250 armed men. Venetian galleys were also able to navigate at sustained speeds even without wind using the oars .
Among the many Venice Tours that I propose, this one will take us on a discovery one of the most secret places of Venice. We will discover the secrets of the construction of the galleys, visit the Naval Museum of the city and the Castello district, rather unknown to tourists but, I assure you, very charming!!