About 3800 meters long, with a width between 30 and 70 meters and an average depth of 5 meters, Canal Grande divides the historical center of Venice into two parts, tracing on the map an inverted S, which goes from the Liberty Bridge (Ponte della Libertà) to the Saint Mark’s Basin (Bacino San Marco).
SHORT HISTORY OF CANAL GRANDE
Already in pre-Roman times, groups of ancient Veneti people built stilt houses on the banks of the Grand Canal, and lived mainly from fishing and salt trade.
Under the rule of the Roman Empire, and later of the Byzantine Empire, the lagoon was populated and acquired a certain importance.
At the beginning of the 9th century, the doge moved his seat from the island of Lido to the more defensible land along the canal.
The trade also moved to the Rialto area, which found a safe harbor accessible even to large boats, and various warehouses (fondachi), buildings designed specifically for trade, were built along the canal.
ARCHITECTURE ON THE GRAND CANAL
The Grand Canal is flanked along its entire length by magnificent buildings, most dating back to a period between the 12th and 18th centuries.
During the 12th and 13th centuries, structures in Venetian-Byzantine style were built along the canal, such as Ca’ Farsetti, Ca’ Loredan and Ca’ Da Mosto.
During the second half of the 14th century, the Gothic style became prominent in Venice, and structures like Palazzo Pisani Moretta, Ca’ Foscari, Palazzo Barbaro in San Vidal, Palazzo Loredan dell’Ambasciatore and Palazzo Cavalli-Franchetti were built.
At the beginning of the 16th century, Jacopo Sansovino designed Palazzo Corner della Ca’ Granda and Palazzo Dolfin Manin. Also in Renaissance style are Palazzo Papadopoli and Palazzo Grimani di San Luca.
The next period belonged to the Baroque architecture. In the first half of the 17th century, Baldassare Longhena built the Basilica of Santa Maria della Salute, one of the most beautiful churches in the city and one of the symbols of the Grand Canal.
The Neoclassical period was marked, among others, by the construction of Palazzo Grassi Massari and the Church of San Simeone Piccolo.
THE BRIDGES ON CANAL GRANDE
The Grand Canal is crossed by four bridges. The most recent is Ponte della Costituzione, designed by the architect Santiago Calatrava, and built in 2007.
Next, right after the Santa Lucia railway station, there is Ponte degli Scalzi, a stone arch bridge designed by Eugenio Miozzi, completed in 1934.
The oldest and the most beautiful is the Rialto Bridge, rebuilt several times since its first construction in 1173.
The fourth, near the southern end of the canal, is Ponte dell’Accademia, built by the same Eugenio Miozzi in 1933.
TIP: To admire every palace, church and bridge built on Canal Grande, take the waterbus Line 1 from Piazzale Roma, and after a 45 minutes trip you will reach San Marco Vallaresso and the eastern end of the canal.
And if you need more time to admire the scenery, take an enchanting gondola ride along the most beautiful part of the Grand Canal.
HOW TO GET TO THE GRAND CANAL
The western end of the Grand Canal is located near Piazzale Roma, one of the few places in the historical center of Venice where buses and cars are allowed. The closest vaporetto stop is Piazzale Roma, on the waterbus Lines 1, 2, 2/, 3, 4.1, 4.2, 5.1, 5.2 and 6.
The vaporetto stop which marks the other end of the Grand Canal is San Marco Vallaresso, on the waterbus Line 1.
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