The Grand Canal
The Canalazzo aka the Grand Canal is the most important waterway of Venice, about 3800 meters long, it splits the city in two. Seen from the sky Venice looks like a big fish, which is not bad for a city so intertwined with the sea.
The Grand Canal is like a thick dark line that creates a big S inside the fish. On each side, there are many magnificent buildings dated between the XII and XVII centuries that testify to the wealth and rare aesthetic of the “Serenissima Republic”. This particular waterway was the main vein of trade of the Republic since the early Middle Ages.
It was through the Grand Canal that the heavy cargo ships (some were over 400 tons) sailed inside the core of the city-state. It is on the Grand Canal that the Fondaci were born. The Fondaco was a sort of big warehouse and inn for merchants coming from every part of the world. There are 4 bridges crossing the Grand Canal, each built in a different era.
The most recent one is the Ponte della Costituzione (the Constitution Bridge), also known as the Calatrava Bridge (from the name of the Spanish Architect who drew the project) and inaugurated on Sept. 11, 2008. It links the Train Station Area with Piazzale Roma. Right after it, there is the Ponte degli Scalzi (the Barefoot Bridge) just in front of the Train Station.
Proceeding towards Saint Mark’s Square we find the Rialto Bridge, certainly the most important and famous one, once made of wood. It used to be a drawbridge that allowed the crossing of the canal to sailing ships when Rialto was the ancient port of the city.
The last bridge we meet is Accademia Bridge still a temporary structure made out of wood. It is a very important link between Dorsoduro and Saint Mark’s square. These four bridges are not the only way to cross the Canal Grande: a quite cheap gondola (traghetto) service takes people from one side to the other.
The Grand Canal ends in Saint Mark’s where the spectacular view of the basin opens wide in front of us. On the right side the Church Santa Maria della Salute and the Punta della Dogana (Custom Point), on the left the extraordinary view of Saint Marks’ Square, the Doge’s Palace, the Basilica, and the dominating Bell Tower, the so-called “El Paron de Casa” the master of the house.
The Grand Canal was, and still is, the most ambitious place to live. All palaces on this waterway (with no pedestrian access from the Canal) were built and embellished by the most important noble families of the City. The best way (the only one !!) to see all the palaces is by water bus: sit back, relax and enjoy the splendor passing by! (Description by http://www.venice-tourism.com/)