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Cruisin' - THE GRAND CANAL
Sights & Attractions in Venice (Italy)
Member Name: proxam
Sights & Attractions in Venice (Italy)
Date: 09/01/13, updated on 04/11/13 (140 review reads)
Advantages: An amazing sight
Disadvantages: Venice is SO expensive
The Grand Canal (to give it it's English name), is one of the first things most visitors see when they arrive in the city, leading as it does, from the lagoon at Santa Lucia Railway station and the huge, and hugely expensive, car parks.
It snakes through the city in a giant back-to-front S shape from here to the St Mark Basin at the opposite end of town. At 3800m long and varying widths of between 30-90m, it's said to be one of the few man-made structure visible from space...although I'm not sure it was so much man-made as 'enhanced', and I think you'd have to be in a pretty low orbit to catch a glimpse of it from the space shuttle.So just ignore that last piece of nonsense.
Now, where was I? Ah yes, Venice. Straight out of the car park (25 euros lighter) and across the Piazzale Roma to the water bus stop. No, I don't mean the bus stop was made of water, that would just be silly. I mean a stop for a water bus where you can part with another 16 euros for a 12 hour bus pass (it's 5 for a single trip so it should be cost effective to buy a longer term pass).
Well, we didn't have to wait long for a bus to arrive - services are frequent but you have to be aware that there are several routes so make sure you get the right bus. Our plan (wholly devised by mice and men) was to jump on and off the water bus as and when it suited. Chance would be a fine thing.
There's no other way to encounter the magnificent palaces and buildings which line the Canal than by water. I would imagine wandering along a dim and dirty back street to turn a corner and behold this special view just wouldn't be the same. In this respect, I'm glad we jumped on the bus. However, after a journey that seemed to last about as long as a wet Tuesday afternoon in Airdrie, and being thoroughly depressed by the shoogliest 'cruise' I've ever experienced...not to mention the almost deafening roar from the engines, we couldn't wait to get off the bliddy thing.
Sheesh, it was so slow and uncomfortable, I think I'd sooner have swam the length of the Canal Byronesque-style.
So, instead of travelling all the way to St Mark's, we jumped ship at the Rialto...Bridge, that is.
The Rialto Bridge is one of the most familiar views on the Grand Canal and dates from 1588 (just a year before the water bus set out). The Rialto is pretty impressive and even the masses of tourists don't quite manage to spoil it (no matter how hard they try with litter and half-eaten foodstuffs). There has been a bridge here for centuries linking the two commercial districts of the city and I think it's been centuries since the streets around it were cleaned!
Still fantastically impressive though.
What else is ther to see on the Grand Canal? Apart from the water, there are oodles of fancy buildings. This was, and probably still is, the high rent area of Venice so it follows that most of the residents were not short of a ducat or two. Palaces literally rise from the water. Most have no pedestrian access (not on the canal side at least) but a simple, or not so simple, mooring point.
As far as I'm aware, there's only one area where you can actually walk along the banks of the canal and that is next to the Rialto. Naturally, this is lined with restaurants which are invariably overcrowded and overpriced.
Quick tip: If you simply must have a trip on a gondola, and are either too financially stretched (or too smart) to fork out upwards of £60 to sit in a dirty, stinking, stretch of stagnant canal in a gondola jam, you can take a ferry across the Grand Canal in a Traghetto (a slightly larger version of a gondola) for around one euro.
The Grand Canal is a busy thoroughfare as there's no road transport in Venice so everything is transported by boat. With the constant buzz of of the sleek water taxis (very expensive) the chundering thundering water busses and gliding swish of the gondolas (very expensive), it's not exactly quiet. In fact I couldn't make out one chorus of O Sole Mio from the gondoliers.
We had lunch in a small restaurant just off the canal which was very good, very friendly and not touristically priced but still afforded a partial view of the canal and its hustle and bustle. So much so that mid-meal, we were treated to the spectactle of a police chase with sirens blaring. A police boat whizzing down the canal chasing the bad guys was certainly a different way to liven up lunch time chatter.
The Grand Canal is impressive. It's everything you imagine it would be and the pictures you've seen don't do it justice. It's a buzzing and vibrant artery in an otherwise sedate and relatively silent city. Having said that, I actually preferred some of the smaller canals and little back streets away from the touristy areas of Venice, but you can't go to Venice and not see the Grand Canal...literally.
We never did go back on the water bus. Venice isn't huge and it's surprisingly easy to walk around in but I'm afraid that if you want to see the glories of the Grand Canal, you have to board some sort of water transport at some point and even if the water bus was, how can I put it, crap, it did let us sample a cruise of sorts on this serpentine wonder.
Summary: Messin' about on boats