Grand Canal, Italian Canale Grande, main waterway of Venice, Italy, following a natural channel that traces a reverse-S course from San Marco Basilica to Santa Chiara Church and divides the city into two parts.
Slightly more than 3 km (2 miles) long and between 30 and 70 metres (100 and 225 feet) wide, the Grand Canal has an average depth of 5 metres (17 feet) and connects at various points with a maze of smaller canals. These waterways carry the bulk of Venetian transportation, as automobiles are banned throughout much of the city. Traditional poled gondolas are a favourite with tourists but are now vastly outnumbered by motorized public-transit water buses (vaporetti) and private water taxis. Siren-equipped boats belonging to the police, fire, and emergency medical services traverse the Grand Canal at high speed, and barges are responsible for the delivery of goods throughout the city. The connection between Venetians and their city’s main thoroughfare does not end at the grave: funeral barges can be seen transporting the dead to Isola di San Michele, an island northeast of the city that has been the site of Venice’s largest cemetery since the early 19th century.