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Italy: Canal Grande

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Canal Grande | Italy | Europe

[Visited: April 2008 and many times before]

The Canal Grande, or Grand Canal, is the main artery of Venice. Not only does it provide the fastest connection between the northwestern side of the city and Saint Mark Basin, it is also the main transportation hub of the city. Public boats or vaporetti, water taxis and gondolas, but also cargo ships, police boats and ambulance boats use the Canal Grande as the highway of the city. From here, smaller canals fan out in all directions; they all pale in comparison to the size of the Canal Grande. It is less than 4 km long, and has a width between 30 and 90 metres. There are surprisingly few bridges crossing the canal: at present only three, while a fourth is under construction. The most famous of all is, of course, the Rialto Bridge, roughly halfway from the station to Piazza San Marco.

Picture of Canal Grande (Italy): Moored boats on the Canal Grande in the early evening

The Canal Grande is lined with many grand palazzi or palaces, like the famous Ca d'Oro, Palazzo Barbaro and Ca' Foscari. You can also find churches, old warehouses, and markets (notably, the Pescaria or Fish market) directly on the Canal Grande. Many buildings have their front door directly on the canal, without pavement, which means that they can only be admired either from a boat or from the other side of the Canal. Originally, the course of the Canal Grande was that of an ancient river flowing through the lagoon; people settled here in houses on stilts. The course of the Canal Grande has more or less remained the same, while the buildings developed into the imposing palaces we see now.

Picture of Canal Grande (Italy): View over Canal Grande from the Rialto Bridge: looking towards the South West

For most visitors, the first view they get of Venice is the Canal Grande, either upon exiting the railway station, or Piazzale Roma which can be reached by road. The most obvious way from here is to take a vaporetto through the city - it gives an excellent impression of what Venice is all about: water, majestic palaces and boats, lots of boats. Equally rewarding, though, is to walk along the Canal Grande: it gives you ample opportunity to marvel at the beauties of palazzi, some with finely decorated marble front sides, on the other side of the Canal. There are, however, entire stretches of the Canal Grande without pavements: the palazzi rise directly from the water of the Canal.

Picture of Canal Grande (Italy): Public transport and gondola on the Canal Grande in the early spring evening
Picture of Canal Grande (Italy): Early morning on the Canal Grande
Picture of Canal Grande (Italy): Early evening light on palazzi on the Canal Grande
Picture of Canal Grande (Italy): Strolling on the Canal Grande near the Rialto Bridge
Picture of Canal Grande (Italy): Typical sight on the Canal Grande
Picture of Canal Grande (Italy): View over Rialto Bridge and palazzo on Canal Grande
Picture of Canal Grande (Italy): Majestic palazzi, among which Ca d'Oro on the right, on the Canal Grande
Picture of Canal Grande (Italy): Gondolier on an overflowing Canal Grande
Picture of Canal Grande (Italy): Sunset view over Canal Grande from the Rialto Bridge
Picture of Canal Grande (Italy): Detailed view of palazzi on the Canal Grande
Picture of Canal Grande (Italy): Many boats serving the Canal Grande
Picture of Canal Grande (Italy): Time for a short break: reading a newspaper on the Canal Grande
Picture of Canal Grande (Italy): Canal Grande before sunset

Around the World in 80 Clicks

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