These are the salt warehouses, where the Republic stored the most precious commodity of its Lagoon. Not so many years ago, salt was a state monopoly in Italy and sold only in tobacco shops, and the old salt signs they sometimes preserve are the last reminders of what was once a very, very serious economic and political issue.
Most of the salt came from pans near Chioggia, though the Venetians imported it from as far away as the Balearic islands. Every grain of the 44,000 tons of salt that could fit in the salt warehouses was governed by the Salt Office, which issued licences to the exporters stating both the price and purchaser.
Recently the big brick warehouse was purchased by the Fondazione Emilio e Annabianca Vedova as a permanent exhibition space for the works of Emilio Vedova (1919-2006), Venice's most important artist of the 20th century.
Vedova, who once had his studio in the Magazzini, campaigned to save the building when the city wanted to demolish it to build a swimming pool. In 2014 Vedova's friend Renzo Piano was placed in charge of renovating the interior; one innovative feature (see the video) is the use of robotic arms to change exhibits.
Image by Axbay, Creative Commons License