Excursion by private motor-launch with multilingual hostess along the Grand Canal, “the most beautiful street in the world”. The Canal Grande snakes through the city of Venice in a large S shape, traveling from the Saint Mark Basin, on one end, to a lagoon near the Santa Lucia rail station, on the other. This ancient waterway (3,800 meters long) is lined with buildings - about 170 - that were mostly built from the 13th to the 18th centuries.
Most were constructed by wealthy Venetian families.
The majority of the city's traffic cruises up and down the canal, be it private boats, vaporetti (water buses), water taxis or the famous gondolas. Foot traffic gathers around three famous bridges that cross the canal: the Rialto Bridge, Degli Scalzi Bridge and Accademia Bridge. A fourth, modern (and controversial) bridge was recently added not far from the Scalzi bridge: the Calatrava Bridge.
It is believed that the Grand Canal follows the course of an ancient river. One of the first settlements in the area grew along the canal around the area of the current Rialto Bridge.
By the 10th century, it was a centre for trade and a safe, ship-accessible port. Because of this, some of the earliest houses along the canal belonged to merchants who did their business on the seas.
By the 12th and 13th centuries, homes along the canal became much more ornate and often included Byzantine-style decoration like elongated arches and large loggias. This Venetian-Byzantine style of architecture is evident in the oldest building along the canal, the Ca' da Mosto, which is a 13th century palazzo.
The Venetian-Gothic style of architecture began in appear in buildings constructed along the Grand Canal in the 15th century and some of the best examples can still be found there, including the magnificent Ca d'Oro (House of Gold). During this period, facades included plaster in bright colors, pointed arches were popular, and columns were skinnier than before.
Buildings and homes designed in the Renaissance and Classical styles arrived in the 16th century. Many featured white facades rather than colored ones and windows touted round rather than pointed arches. Examples of those styles of architecture include the Palazzo Dario and the Palazzo Grimani.
In the late 16th century and into the 17th century, Baroque-style buildings were added to those that already fronted the Canal Grande. This was the most prolific era of building activity along the waterway, and included the addition of the Santa Maria di Nazareth Church (known today as Scalzi) and the Santa Maria della Salute Basilica, one of the city's most elegant ecclesiastic structures. Baldassarre Longhena was the major architect of that era and he added many new buildings to the canal area.
By the 18th century, building along the Grand Canal had pretty much come to a halt.
The way back will be along Giudecca’s Canal, where you’ll discover other masterpieces as the Churches of Redentore and S.Giorgio Maggiore by Palladio.