Venice Grand Canal: everything you wanted to know about
Snaking its way through the heart of one of the world’s most atmospheric cities, the Venice Grand Canal is a busy waterway and romantic backdrop in equal measure. As the largest and most famous of Venice’s extensive network of canals, there are lots of interesting things to learn about the city’s busiest thoroughfare. Here are some of our favourite Venice Grand Canal facts.
1. The buildings on the Grand Canal date from the 13th century
The 16ft-deep Venice Grand Canal – known by locals as the Canalazzo – has over 170 buildings built along its two-and-a-half mile length, many of them grand palazzos. The majority of these buildings were built between the 13th and 18th century and most open directly onto the canal, making their fronts accessible only by boat.
2. It’s the setting for a historic boat procession
Head to Venice on the first Sunday in September and you’ll catch an ancient spectacle unfolding on the Grand Canal. Thousands of people flock to watch the Regata Storica (Historical Regatta), a highlight in the Venetian calendar that features a colourful waterborne procession followed by rowing competitions. It’s an event that evokes the glory of the golden days of Venice, recreating the moment the Queen of Cyprus arrived in the city in 1489.
3. It’s thought to follow an ancient route
It’s thought that the Grand Canal owes its distinctive S-shape to a much more ancient waterway: a natural river that flowed into the Venetian lagoon. People were already living in stilt houses along its banks before Roman times.
4. Its most famous bridge is mentioned by Shakespeare
The Rialto is the oldest of the four bridges to span the Grand Canal, which divides the city in two. Completed in its current incarnation in 1591, the Rialto is one of Venice’s top attractions and it’s even mentioned by Shakespeare in The Merchant of Venice, when Shylock asks: “What news on the Rialto?”
5. The Grand Canal had a starring role in James Bond
In the James Bond film Casino Royale, the Grand Canal is the setting for a dramatic part at the end of the story when Bond realises he’s been betrayed by Vesper. Following her to a palazzo that’s in the middle of renovation, the whole building starts sinking into the Grand Canal and Vesper drowns. While the sinking palazzo was created in a studio, you can see the surrounding buildings in the Cannaregio district, right near the Rialto. Venice also featured in two other Bond films: From Russia with Love (1963) and Moonraker (1979).
Want to see the Grand Canal for yourself? Then find out more about Venezia Lines ferry. Don’t forget that at the end of your day trip, you can take a water taxi from St Mark’s Square to San Basilio, taking you right the way along the Grand Canal in time for your departure – the perfect way to end your time in Venice!