The Grand Canal is a channel in Venice, Italy. It forms one of the major water-traffic corridors in the city.  One end of the canal leads into the lagoon near the Santa Lucia railway station and the other end leads into the basin at San Marco; in between, it makes a large reverse-S shape through the central districts of Venice. It is 2.4 miles long, and 30 to 90 m wide, with an average depth of 16.5 ft.  So called the 'Canalazzo', is the most important water way of Venice.  Venice from above looks like a big fish, appropriate considering it's a city on the sea.The Grand Canal it's like a thick dark line that creates a kind of "big S" inside the fish.

By each side there are many magnificent buildings (from a period dated between XII and XVII century) that testify the richness and beauty of the art of the 'Serenissima' Republic.  The banks of the Grand Canal are lined with more than 170 buildings, most of which date from the 13th to the 18th century, and demonstrate the welfare and art created by the Republic of Venice. The noble Venetian families faced huge expenses to show off their richness in suitable palazzos; this contest reveals the citizens' pride and the deep bond with the lagoon. Amongst the many is Palazzo Venier dei Leoni, housing the Peggy Guggenheim Collection. The churches along the canal include the basilica of Santa Maria della Salute. Centuries-old traditions, such as the Historical Regatta, are perpetuated every year along the Canal.  Most of the palaces emerge from water without pavement. Consequently, one can only tour past the fronts of the buildings on the grand canal by boat.

The Grand Canal probably follows the course of an ancient river (possibly a branch of the Brenta) flowing into the lagoon. Adriatic Veneti groups already lived beside the formerly-named "Rio Businiacus" before the Roman age. They lived in stilt houses and relied on fishing and commerce (mainly salt). Under the rule of the Roman empire and later of the Byzantine empire the lagoon became populated and important. This 'street' was the center of the trades of the Republic since the Middle Age. Here ships (some were over 400 tons) used to sail by: in fact, it is right on the Grand Canal that the 'Fondaci' were born. They were a sort of big warehouses and inns for merchants coming from every part of the world.   A portico (a porch leading to the entrance of a building, or extended as a colonnade, with a roof structure over a walkway, supported by columns or enclosed by walls) covers the bank and facilitates the ships' unloading from these warehouse/inns. From the portico a corridor flanked by storerooms reaches a posterior courtyard. Similarly, on the first floor a loggia (an architectural feature which is a covered exterior gallery or corridor usually on an upper level, or sometimes ground level. The outer wall is open to the elements, usually supported by a series of columns or arches) as large as the portico illuminates the hall into which open the merchant's rooms. The facade is thereby divided into an airy central part and two more solid sides. A low mezzanine with offices divides the two floors.

The fondaco house often had lateral defensive towers, as in the Fondaco dei Turchi (13th century, heavily restored in the 19th). With the German warehouse, the Fondaco dei Tedeschi (which is also situated on the Grand Canal), it reflects the high number of foreign merchants working in Venice, where the republic supplied them with storerooms and lodging and simultaneously controlled their trading activity.

Increasing trade found in the deep Grand Canal a safe and ship accessible canal-port. Drainage reveals that the city became more compact over time: at that time the Canal was wider and flowed between small, tide-subjected islands connected by wooden bridges.

Because most of the city's traffic goes along the Canal rather than across it, only one bridge crossed the canal until the 19th century, the Rialto Bridge. There are currently 4 bridges crossing the Grand Canal, each built in different eras. The most recent one is the 'Ponte della Costituzione' (the Constitution Bridge), known also as the 'Calatrava Bridge'. It links the Train Station Area with Piazzale Roma. Right after it, there is the 'Ponte degli Scalzi' ('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 the Accademia Bridge, still a temporary structure made out of wood. It is a very important link between Dorsoduro and Saint Mark's district.  As was usual in the past, people can still take a ferry ride across the canal at several points by standing up on the deck of a simple gondola called a traghetto, although this service is less common.

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 of Salute" and the 'Punta della Dogana' (Custom Point),on the left the extraordinary view of Saint Mark's Square, the Doge's Palace, the Basilica, and the dominating Bell Tower, 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 water way (no pedestrian access from the Canal) were built and embellished by the most important nobles 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!