The Arsenale (prn ars en are lay) was the centre of Venetian ship building from the 12th Century. It was the greatest shipyard in the world but once Venice stopped being a major naval and trading power it gradually fell into disrepair. When Napoleon invaded Venice he destroyed all the docks, but despite that some rather impressive building still remain.
Normally most of the Arsenale not acessible to the public as part of it is used by the Italian navy, but when the Biennale’s are held some buildings are used as exhbition spaces and it is possible to walk around. One huge building which used to be the rope making factory has become gallery after gallery. Outside there is an original hydraulic crane, and it is possible to walk through some of the slipway structures.