The Arsenal of the Republic of Venice has long evoked superlatives since the era of Dante.
Two elements that played a peculiar and dominant role in the workings of the Venetian Arsenal were wine and the Caneva.
Second, only to timber for the ships, wine purchases represented two to five times what was spent on either pitch, crude iron, canvas or hemp for rope. A product that had no apparent connection with constructing ships, except to keep shipbuilders from going thirsty. Yet, this is just what the otherwise notoriously frugal Venetian government regularly did, as it spent upwards of 2% of its annual budget to ensure that the states largest workforce always had plenty to drink.
The wine was procured by professional contractors from all corners of the Mediterranean, especially from the Puglie and as far as Zante and Rhodes.
Once the contractor had cleared his consignment through customs and paid the necessary duties, he ferried his wine over to the shipyard’s special wine cellar or Caneva. Here, it was poured off into whichever of the sixty or so, 2,000-litre storage casks (Botti) happened to be available. It was the Canever’s (Cellar Master’s) duty to quench the worker’s thirst throughout the day.
Caneva is our tribute to the one and only cellar in the heart of the greatest merchant city in the world: The Republic of Venice.