Venice Explorer: Fun Facts about The Grand Canal

st mark s basilica in venice
Photo by Wolfgang on

After all our walking around St. Mark’s Square and The Doge’s Palace, I thought it’d be fun to catch a boat and tour Venice on water. This is afterall ‘The Queen of the Adriatic’ and a city of water.

In Venice there are numerous ways to get around on the water. While Gondolas are the most famous transport for their romantic history and unique style…usually when you need practical point a to b (for instance hauling your luggage from the airport across the canal into Venice) – you’ll opt for a Vaporetto (ferry) or a water taxi.

Today we’re going on a private water taxi and going to enjoy a bit of sunshine, a breeze and the gorgeous architecture that lines the canal. It feels like sometime out of a fairy tale – and yet it is real and purely Venice.

black gondola
Gondola’s are a historical boat used in Venice that now have a bit of tourist romantic flair…
Our Taxi (this was one of the options when I was in Venice, but our taxi was covered luckily since it was raining)
  • Known by the locals as The Canalazzo it is two and half miles in length
  • The Grand Canal cuts like a snake through Venice (which ironically is shaped like a fish)
  • On average it is 17 feet deep and runs from 100 feet to 225 feet across
  • Many of the smaller canals that connect Venice are only 7 feet deep and occasionally dry up
  • The Grand Canal is lined with 170 buildings, mostly from the 13th-18th-century
  • The word for bridge in Italian is ponte
  • Only four bridges cross The Grand Canal, including The Rialto (below), Ponte degli Scalzi (Bridge of the Barefoot or Discalced Monks, Ponte dell Accademia, Ponte della Constituzione
    • The Rialto Bridge area is one of the oldest areas settled in Venice
    • The Ponte dell Accademia connects to the wonderful Accademia Museum where Leonardo’s Vitruvian Man is stored (only on display once a year or so), The Ponte della Constituzione is one of the newer bridges and is controversial for being modern
  • Thousands of spectators flock to The Grand Canal every September for The Regata Storica (Historical Regatta) – features colorful waterborne procession followed by rowing competitions – recreates the moment the Queen of Cyprus arrived in 1489
  • The canal owes its distinctive shape to an ancient waterway that flowed intothe lagoon
  • The canal has been featured in many films including James Bond and Indiana Jones

What to see on The Grand Canal

  • Basilica of Santa Maria della Salute – St. Mary of Health
    • This jewel of Baroque architecture was built to Thank God for Venice’s return to health after the great Italian Plague of 1629-31
    • It was designed by local architect Baldassare Longhena who also built Ca’Rezzonico
    • The crown like dome watches over the canal
    • Inside you can see artwork by Titian and Tintoretto
  • Peggy Guggenheim Museum: One of the finest modern art collections in the world. Peggy, the niece of Solomon Guggenheim who founded The Guggenheim in NYC, lived in Venice many years. This is her collection of art by the likes of Picasso, Pollack and more
  • Accademia Gallery: The premier art gallery in Venice for the city’s old masters like Titian, Tintoretto, Veronese and more
  • Ca’ Rezzonco: Now the Museum of 18th-Century Venice – a gorgeous former Palace on The Grand Canal. Fun fact – American artist John Singer Sargeant had his studio here when he was in Venice.
  • Ca’ Foscari – once a palace this is now home to The University of Venice
  • Palazzo Balbi: It was built from 1582, under design by Alessandro Vittoria as the residence of the Venetian patrician family of the Balbi. It is now home to the President of the Veneto region and council
  • Ca’ Oro: Now home to another AMAZING art museum – The Museum of Giorgio Franchetti…this museum includes masterworks from Venetian masters and is NOT to be missed if you are an art lover

We’re going to end our tour by looping back to The Rialto Bridge area, where we’ll enjoy an espresso or pasta and fish at a local restaurant.

Keep following American Nomad as we continue our tour Venice and Italy for the next few weeks.

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