Travel its length to view “a continuous line of marble palaces,” write Philippe and Oscar Duboy in the Louis Vuitton Venice Guide. “With some 50 palaces, six churches, four bridges, scene-stealing cameos in James Bond films, two open-air markets and one rather picturesque prison (from the outside, anyway), this water-way definitely earns its name and fame.” Curving in a reverse S through the heart of the city, it is “Venice's Main Street,” always busy with traffic “that includes everything from gondolas to barges carrying produce to market,” says Planetware. “In Venice's heyday, anyone of note -- or who wanted to be of note -- had to have a palace facing the Grand Canal, and their palazzi represent every style of architecture, from the 12th to the early 18th century.”
The Grand Canal is lined with around 170 buildings, says A View on Cities, most of them constructed by wealthy Venetian families. The Grand Canal is believed to follow “the course of an ancient river,” and by the tenth century it was “a centre for trade and a safe, ship-accessible port.” By the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, the homes became “much more ornate and often included Byzantine-style decoration like elongated arches and large loggias,”and by the fifteenth century the Venetian-Gothic style of architecture began in appear -- “and some of the best examples can still be found there, including the magnificent Ca d'Oro (House of Gold).” Renaissance and Classical styles arrived in the sixteenth century, then “Baroque-style buildings were added to those that already fronted the Canal Grande.” Take a virtual tour with Stuart’s travel video.
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