Of special interest is the Museo della Marineria (“Seafaring Museum”) in Cesenatico, the only museum of its kind in Italy (and one of few in the world): the “Land” section, containing the collections exhibited in the pavilion, is flanked by two other areas of the museum, the “Floating” section, which consists of eleven boats on the water whose sails are hoisted daily in summer, and the “Navigational” section, which displays three boats kept in operation to preserve the “intangible cultural heritage” of navigational practices of the past. The museum is especially remarkable and worthy of exploration for its relationship with the old Porto Canale designed by Leonardo da Vinci: the historic center of this quarter of the city is characterized by areas for the preservation and sale of fish as well as houses of fishermen. It also contains numerous traditional boats which are privately owned and whose restoration has been encouraged by the example of the museum; the city has indeed granted free docking to these boats. The community of Cesenatico sees in the museum a reflection of its history and identity.
Land Section (“Sezione a Terra”)
This new structure, whose design follows that of old arsenals, hosts the Land Section of the Museo della Marineria, which takes visitors on a far-reaching and evocative tour of traditional seafaring culture of the upper and middle Adriatic.
The central area of the museum’s large pavilion hosts a “trabaccolo” and a “bragozzo”, the two predominant sailboats during the height of seafaring on the upper Adriatic. The two boats are fully equipped, complete with their lug sails. The first part of the tour is dedicated to “structure and building,” where visitors can touch the simple materials and equipment used by sailors since ancient times. Among the items on display are a ropemaker’s wheel, including a reconstruction of its mode of operation, and a 19th-century shipbuilder’s workshop, which was purchased whole and reassembled in the museum.
The second part of this section regards “propulsion and steering”: anchors from the present and the past are on display here, including two recovered exemplars from the 17th century. Visitors then proceed to several learning stations, where they can assess their ability to handle ropes and pulleys and to tie knots. A considerable portion of this part of the tour is devoted to the evolution of rigging, while a series of engines marks the transition from traditional ships to powerboats.
The upper level provides access to two overhanging terraces from which visitors can observe details of the sails and masts close up. The tour continues with a display of artifacts which illustrate life on board a ship, followed by descriptions of the catch and sale of fish, navigation, magical and religious symbolism (above all the pair of eyes on the bow) and the dangers of the seafaring trade.
The museum makes ample use of videos, including rare film clips from the past and three-dimensional animations.
The Floating Museum (“Il museo galleggiante”)
The ten boats of the Floating Section include the various types of sailing vessels predominantly used on the upper Adriatic between the end of the 19th and the first half of the 20th centuries. On display are two fishing “trabaccoli” (small boats), three “bragozzi”, a launch, a “paranza”, a “topo”, a “battana” and a transport “trabaccolo”, the last of which visitors may board in summer to see the large cargo bay and the cabins. Two moored boats on the other side of the bridge are equipped for navigation; in summer they are used for demonstrative purposes and in vintage boat rallies.
The Floating Section illustrates the characteristics of the various vessels and their equipment, which in each case correspond to the function of the boat and to the locations where it was employed. In addition, visitors can observe certain particularities of the boats, such as the “eyes” on the bow, painted with varying degrees of artistic ability, or the “zoje”, decorative floral designs, or again the “cuffia”, a representation of ram’s fleece sculpted in wood: each of these elements serves to adorn the boats but also recalls magical or religious symbols of the past.
What especially renders the Floating Section unique in summer are the sails, dyed in bright colors made from powder pigments and decorated with symbols indicating membership in a certain family of fishermen, a custom which produced an authentic seafaring heraldry. The sails are hoisted and lowered every day from Easter until the end of October, weather permitting: it would indeed be problematic and dangerous for both ships and people if the 17 sails of the 10 ships present in the Floating Section of the Museum had to be simultaneously lowered!
Summer opening hours:
July and August, open every day from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. and from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m.