Saturday, April 26, 2014

The Arsenale Opens Wide This Weekend

A fleet of sanpierote moored in the Darsena Grande
Yesterday was the first day of a three-day "open house" at the Arsenale. Officially entitled Arsenale Aperto alla Città, each day through Sunday, from 10 in the morning until 8 at night, will feature a full array of events for children and adults.

Throughout the day kids can have a go at throwing clay on a real pottery wheel under the watchful eye of an experienced artisan (as below), learn how to row in a caorlina (a large traditional lagoon work boat now used for 6 person races) in the Venetian style, or in the "English-style" (as it's called here) in a long dragon boat. There are free drawing and painting and clay workshops for kids, too, while adults might take one of the frequent guided tours of the Arsenale. There are sporting events--regatte, rugby, calcio--live music, arts and crafts displays, exhibitions of traditional Venetian boats (such as the sanpierote above) and Il Nuovo Trionfo (the old trabaccolo usually moored at the Punta della Dogana and formerly used to carry goods throughout the northern Adriatic), and, of course, Venetian food and wine. 

But each day also features conferences, talks and meetings on not just the history of the Arsenale but on its future as an important part of the life of the city. For the real point of the three-day festival is not only to entertain the community, or to celebrate Venetian traditions, but to send a clear signal to the city's decision makers that Venetians have an abiding and active interest in this central piece of their cultural patrimony and are determined that it be used or developed in a way that benefits Venetians, with imagination and foresight, in the interest of the living resident community, rather than some imagined foreign luxury clientele.

It's an important message to send, and one that's becoming increasingly hard to get across anywhere in the world, but this three-day open house aims to demonstrate unmistakably the public commitment to such ideals.

A full schedule of events, with a helpful map, can be downloaded on the following page ("Scarica il programma dell' evento in formatto pdf"):

One of the members of I Bochaleri (l'associazione di ceramisti veneziani) helps a boy with the pottery wheel
Most of the events take place in the warehouses to the left of photo; in the distance is the Porta Nuova to the lagoon with its large tower, constructed by the French in a gothic style in 1810 (and with a rooftop full of people yesterday)


  1. Dear Steven,

    what a beautiful view with all these colourful sampierotte at the Arsenale.

    Your blog is so "Venetian" that I am getting more and more nostalgic of my hometown.


    1. Those sanpierota really were beautiful, Francesco. A friend has been suggesting I buy one, but in addition to generally costing more than I have to spend, it would just be another thing I need to learn to do (as if learning the language itself & various other things weren't already enough). If the blog is "Venetian" enough for you then I must be doing something right, thank you.