Museo Storico Navale (Naval Museum) - The Venetians were skilled and prolific boat builders, and Venice was a martime empire, controlling galley fleets in the Mediterranean. This museum is a treasure trove of ships, both intricate models and the real thing, and kids will want to spend some time exploring each floor.
On the first floor, you won't see ships, but there are cannons (some decorated with lions), muskets, blunderbuses, and swords, plus fascinating antique wooden models of Venetian fortresses throughout the Mediterranean.
On other floors are huge intricate wooden models of Venetian rowed galleys and sailing frigates, galleons and barcas, models of the Arsenale shipyard, where Venetians ships were made, a gilded model of the Doge's galley for the Marriage of the Sea ceremony, plus exotic ships from the Orient.
The top floor houses full-sized black lacquer gondolas from earlier centuries, plus a model of a gondola workshop, and steps for gondola construction.
Naval Museum is closed for renovation until 2016. In the meantime, visit the Ships Pavilion, across from the Arsenale, a smaller collection of boats on display.
The Arsenale (Portal del Arsenale) - In the 15th and 16th centuries, the Arsenale was an amazing shipyard, where galleys and cargo ships were constructed. A huge walled area, accessible with four gates, enclosed the massive shipbuilding operations. (Check out the models and plans of the Arsenale in the Naval Museum for the whole story.) The Arsenale continued in operation until 1917.
Today you can't go inside the Arsenale, it's a military zone, but you can visit one of the main gateways, with two large crennelated towers, linked by a bridge over the entrance to the Arsenale. The fancy doorway has a majestic winged lion, plus four lions on either side of the gate. The lions are quite ancient, loot brought from Greece.
The Arsenale gateway, Portal del Arsenale, is just up the Rio dell' Arsenale from the Naval Museum.
Viale Garibaldi and the Public Gardens - One of our favorite walks in Venice is to walk up Via G. Garibaldi to the Garibaldi monument. The Via Garibaldi is a wide pedestrian boulevard, filled with families and children on weekends, shops and restaurants. From the Garibaldi monument (a mossy fountain with yet another winged lion), wander down the tree-lined Viale Garibaldi - this is a great place to picnic, with lots of benches and shade.
At the end of the Viale Garibaldi is the Giardini Pubblici, the public gardens, which has a large playground with climbing structures and swings, park benches. The vaporetto stop, Giardini, is right at the entrance to the gardens.
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