Grand Canal

more than a year ago
Following the path carved out by an ancient river that once flowed into the lagoon, the Grand Canal divides the main island of Venice roughly into two halves on either side of a 3.8km long inverted S-shape, which leads from Santa Lucia train station to the Giudecca Canal and the edge of Piazza San Marco. Its width varies between 30 and 90 metres, and in a testament to the city's water-centric mentality it was only crossed by a single bridge (Ponte di Rialto) until the 19th century, and today there are still only a total of four - the last of which was the controversial Ponte della Constitzione, which opened in 2008.

The world's most famous aquatic thoroughfare is often described as Venice's version of the Champs-Elysées, and while the Grand Canal is indeed on par with its Parisian counterpart in terms of worldwide recognition, the comparison is not entirely accurate. For instance, you won't find many shops, restaurants or pavement cafés lining its banks, as only short sections of the canal actually have pavement. Along much of the Grand Canal, the turquoise waters gently splash up against the fronts of the some 200 palaces and other historic buildings found along its path.

Many of the residences were built between the 13th and 18th centuries by wealthy families, who often competed amongst each other to see who could build the most splendid and ornate homes, with Venetian interpretations of Byzantine, Gothic, Baroque and Neoclassical architectural styles all well-represented. Of course the undisputed winners of these noble rivalries are the modern day tourists who get to view magnificent façades while traversing the canal. In fact, you could likely spend a lifetime making daily trips on and down the waterway, and still find new sights to feast one's eyes on each time.


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