During the Serenissima era Quartier Grando, Casa dei Soldai - also known as Palazzo dei Soldati or Headquarters - home of the so-called Fanti da Mar whose direct descendants are today represented by the "Serenissima" Lagunari Regiment, the only amphibious assault infantry unit of the 'Italian army. The first nucleus of the Fanti da Mar was established by the Doge Enrico Dandolo in 1202 and since 2007 they have made up the joint unit Force of projection from the sea together with the "San Marco" Marine Brigade, better known as Marò.
Able to accommodate 2,000 people, the construction of the Palazzo dei Soldati dates back to 1591, under the doge of Marino Grimani, to solve the age-old problem of military settlements starting from 1202 on the occasion of the fourth crusade in the Holy Land wanted by Pope Innocent III and for which the Doge Dandolo made about 10,000 crusaders (it is said) stop in the area of the Palazzo, building in San Nicolò - the area where the Palace was located and which still bears the same name today - large huts of tables for the soldiers and stables for horses. Crusade that marked the start of the great Venetian mercantile adventure and for which the military were subsequently also used to escort the Mude, or commercial convoys in the Mediterranean.
In the history of the Serenissima, the Lido has played a natural defensive function from the sea, which over time has been reinforced with various solutions, such as the two sturdy wooden towers on the banks of the mouth of the Port of Lido connected with a system of chains and small boats to block navigation in the mouth of the port, designed by Vettor Pisani to whom the Serenissima entrusted the defense of the city during the War of Chioggia (1378-79).
In the same period he had a menagerie built with a large pit obtained with a stone ramparts aimed at protecting the Abbey of San Nicolò, where today the G. Pepe Barracks stands and which is still indicated today with the same name. In the period of the Turkish threat, the old tower called Castel Vecchio in front of Sant'Andrea was rebuilt from scratch and enlarged with two towers on the sides, whose right tower was equipped with a pole with a lantern of sufficient height to be used as a lighthouse.
The complete work contained temporarily the quarters for the soldiers, a tezón for the saltpeters and a factory for the production of gunpowder, the stables for the horses, the convent and the church of San Nicolò. Inside, the militias were trained: there was also a target and a shooting range for artillery.
Only one side is not fortified: the one facing Venice. Both in order not to give a hostile presence to the Venetians in peacetime, and to prevent the enemy, in the eventual landing at the Lido, from turning the artillery in their favor towards the city. However, the side finds its armed cover in the Sant'Andrea fort, thanks to the strategic intuition of the commander Francesco Maria della Rovere, Duke of Urbino.
The great historical importance of this type of building derives from being one of the first examples of barracks built specifically for the settlement and quartering of troops in peacetime, with the aim of creating a modern and non-mercenary army. Relevance that is highlighted by the Venetians by coining a commemorative medal for its constitution
From 1600 until 1999 the then Palazzo dei Soldati and the more current Caserma Pepe - in honor of General Guglielmo Pepe who rescued the Republic of Venice in 1848 - gave accommodation to the Fanti da Mar, the first historical example of amphibious troops, until more recent Regiment Lagunari, today transferred to another location on the mainland.
The current building still retains its original features, including its well in the center of the square plan, although the structure is in many parts dilapidated and unsafe. In some parts of the building there are still portions of wall military maps of Venice dating back to the mid-1800s.
Since 2016 Biennale Urbana has started using the structure for short periods organizing cultural and training activities together with local and international partners, in the Urban Intervention Camp project. More recently, in 2018, a first phase of preparation and regeneration of the large internal courtyard and adjacent spaces was launched.
Together with the Camposaz, Collectif ETC., IGLOÙ, Parasite 2.0 and ATZ (Agreements To Zinedine) collectives, the main infrastructures were created with new temporary services such as bar, kitchen, tables and seats.
With the Cinema Pepe initiative, an artistic installation was created that hosted film reviews in 2018.
The structure can be visited only on specific occasions.
- Associazione Lagunari Truppe Anfibie — last consultation 23 gennaio 2019
- Le truppe anfibie "Serenissima" — last consultation 23 gennaio 2019
- Alla Biennale di Architettura 2018 il Lido di Venezia è protagonista con Esperienza Pepe — Artribune, last consultation 23 gennaio 2019
- Venezia: nuova iniziativa di temporary use nella Caserma Pepe — Agenzia del Demanio, last consultation 23 gennaio 2019
- La Forza di proiezione dal mare — Battaglione San Marco, last consultation 23 gennaio 2019