It was the Austrians who, in 1815, first had the idea of assembling the remnants of the Venetian navy and creating a historical naval museum. They began with a series of models of vessels that had been produced in the 17th century by the Arsenale, and to these added all the naval paraphernalia they could obtain.
The exhibits include friezes preserved from famous galleys of the past, a variety of maritime firearms, and a replica of the Doge’s ceremonial barge, the Bucintoro.
The collection has been housed in an old warehouse on the waterfront since 1958, and now traces Venetian and Italian naval history to the present day.
The first exhibits you see on entering are the World War II human-driven torpedoes, the S.L.C. or “maiali (pigs)”. Torpedoes such as the Siluri a Lenta Corsa, allowed the already weakened Italian Navy to sink ships like the HMS Valiant and HMS Queen Elizabeth. They were guided right under their target, usually inside the port, and positioned by naval divers who, walking on the seabed, set the explosive charges l before swimming away to safety. Various prototypes of their underwater-breathing instruments are displayed.
The training of such commandoes, called the “ComSubIn” (Commando Subacquei Incursori), is known to have later influenced the training techniques of modern Special Corps like the U.S. Navy Seals.
The rest of the museum is divided into the Venetian navy, the Italian navy from 1860 to the present day, Adriatic vessels, and the Swedish room. The museum is well laid out and there are very informative explanations in English.