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Grand Canal (Canal Grande), Venice.

A fascinting city between sea and sky, like Venus rising from the waves, Venice welcomes visitors from the five continents drawn to her by the charm of her canals, the pellucid light and the coolness of the sea breezes. She also offers the intellectual pleasures to be derived from her masterpieces, which mark the meeting of East and West.

Venice is built on 117 islands; it has 150 canals and 400 bridges. A canal is called a rio, a square a campo, a street a calle or salizzada, a quay a riva or fondamenta, a filled-in canal rio Terra, a passageway under a house sotto-portego, a courtyard a corte and a small square a campiello.

The hub of public life is the Piazza San Marco where tourists and citizens sit on the terraces of the famous Florian and Quadri cafes to listen to the music, dream and see the mosaics of St. Mark's glow under the rays of the setting sun. The Quadri is more popular but the Florian is the best-known cafe; founded in 1720 it has received Byron, Goethe, George Sand, Musset and Wagner within its mirrored and allegory-painted walls.

The French writer and ambassador Philippe de Commines, wrote of the Grand Canal in the 15C, "I think it is the finest street in all the world and has the finest houses ". Venice's widest canal winds in a large double bend from the station to St. Mark's basin and is lined with sumptuous palaces in various styles. These were the residences of the patricians whose names were in the Golden Book.


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Last Revised October 13, 2007

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