Arsenal of the Galeazze Portoferraio

The Arsenal from the Galeazze, is the place where once stood the Arsenal of the Medici Grand Ducal fleet, called “the Galeazze”.

Of the ancient construction, the room with two beautiful arches still remains.

This building could follow a previous Pisan naval equipment, more for repair than for ship building.
However, it remains undisputed that the construction of the Galeazze is Medicean, as historical tradition dictates. The pointed Gothic arches of the vaults were perhaps required by the need to have the maximum possible elevation of the environment.

L'acquedotto sostenuto da due archi

The roof of the arsenal of the Galeazze had a natural outlet for the water in an aqueduct supported by an arch, still visible today, placed above the road behind it, which ended in a cistern tower, for the collection of the water itself.

Origin of the Arsenale delle Galeazze

The Galeazze: the Turkish admiral Müezzinzade Alì Pascià, had defined them as real castles at sea not to be won by human strength

Origin of the Arsenale delle Galeazze The first appearance of the galleys was in the Battle of Lepanto (7 October 1571), during which six Venetian galleys were deployed as vanguard in each of the three sectors of the Christian line, under the command of the administrator Francesco Duodo. Their firepower and high aboard were instrumental in the victory of the Christian fleet.

“Two large rooms were made” Arsenale delle Galeazze

Lambardi, who published his work in 1791, gives us other information: “two other large rooms were made between the Porta a Mare and the Bastione del Maggiore, to build galeazze or galleys inside on the occasion, as they were built inside two beautiful galleys like those of Venice, leaving opposite these large rooms, the wall of the Piazza, very thin that it can be easily broken and rebuilt with little expense and speed; these served as a shelter for the two galleys that Duke Cosimo had built. After some navigation, as until 1742, one could see one inside the aforementioned sheltering arsenals, so long, that the whole spur passed outside the arsenal in the middle of the road, and entered the opposite wall. The two galleys had been built by the Grand Duke, one in Pisa and the other in Livorno in the year 1571 like those of Venice “.

Ninci in the year 1814 wrote that “(under the grand duchy of Francesco I in the years 1574-1575) in Portoferraio two of the largest and most beautiful galleys that were seen on the water at that time ended their course”.

And in a note he added: “to preserve the two galeazze, two large arsenals capable of containing them were erected in Portoferraio”.

Again, on 27 September 1782, in a letter dated from Portoferraio, we read of a request for wooden beams (98 wooden beams, fir, 12 arms long) for the rebuilding of the roof of the galley arsenal.

The Medici arsenals and cessation

Cosimo I’s maritime policy, however, did not envisage the Pisan arsenals as the only center of the grand duchy, but rather thought of Pisa as one of the poles of a more complex system where the island of Elba was located, with the construction and fortification of Cosmopoli (today Portoferraio) and the start of the shipbuilding activity also in Livorno, as happened since the 1880s.

The key to the Pisan shipbuilding decline lies in this articulation and dispersion of functions.
In fact, the economic resources of the Grand Duchy were not such as to be able to keep active three nuclei of shipbuilding, while the urban growth of Livorno and its direct accessibility to the sea, soon made it an unsurpassed competitor. The growing cost of livelihoods of the fleet, armaments and arsenals of three centers (Pisa, Livorno and Portoferraio ), combined with the significant decline in profits and revenues from the Grand Ducal finances, caused the inexorable decline of the the Medici-Stefano navy, and the crisis reached its first peak in the mid-seventeenth century.

In 1646, in fact, part of the Tuscan squad was sold: only two galleys remained in service with patrol and representation tasks. Under Cosimo III, the grand-ducal maritime forces were progressively reserved for commercial activities, while the stefanian knights languished in inertia and with increasingly rare expeditions at sea.

In the year 1814 the arsenal of the Galeazze of Portoferraio served as the imperial warehouse of artillery and genius.
In more recent years the former arsenal has been used to host commercial activities.

The galeazza

Venetian Galeazza late 17th century

The galley is a type of exclusively war galley, built in Venice starting from the 15th century and mainly used in the Mediterranean Sea starting from the 16th century. It differed from the common thin galley for the larger size, the large number of artillery and the possibility, exclusive among the galleys, to carry out lateral fire.

These ships, used for the first time by the Venetians of Sebastiano Venier in the battle of Lepanto, represented a sort of hybrid between the galley and the galleon and were considered for several years a fundamental unit in the most powerful fleets.

The galley

The galley or galley is a type of warship and trade ship driven completely by the strength of the oars and sometimes by the wind, thanks also to the presence of masts and sails.

Used in the Mediterranean Sea for over three thousand years, its decline began in the seventeenth century, when it was progressively supplanted by sailing ships, finally becoming extinct at the end of the eighteenth century. Although sometimes the oarsmen of the galleys were criminals condemned to the oar, the galea should not be confused with the prison ship, in which the inmates have no functional role.

360° View

360 ° View of Via delle Galeazze

How to reach the arsenal of the Galeazze

The old Arsenale is located in the historic center of Portoferraio , entering from Porta a Mare, turn right, we are in Via delle Galeazze, 100m and we are in front of the building with a valiant nautical past.

Location of the Arsenal of Galeazze

Museums in Portoferraio

Civic Archaeological Museum of Linguella : loc.Linguella tel. 0565 937370
Foresiana Municipal Art Gallery: Napoleon climb tel. 0565 937371
Roman Villa of the Caves : loc. The caves

Napoleonic Museums: Villa of the mills tel. 0565 915846
Villa di S. Martino tel. 0565 914688

Fortress Falcone
Fortress Falcone Stella

Volterraio Castle : Info Park Tel. +39 0565 908231