Jumping into a gondola or boarding a vaporetto, we will now proceed up the Grand Canal towards the Rialto Bridge glancing as we go at some of the grand marble palaces dating back from the XII to the XVIII centuries. The Grand Canal is Venice’s main thoroughfare and smartest residential “street” running parallel with the Giudecca canal and snaking its way under the Rialto Bridge towards the railway station.
Lord Byron famously swam its length starting from the Lido and fell into it in the course of an amorous exploit. He is only one of many famous visitors who have taken lodgings in the palazzi and hotels that line the canal. The Gothic Palazzo Giustian at the San Marco landing stage, housed the celebrated Hotel Europa in the 19th century whose guests included Ruskin, Proust, Verdi and Turner; a little further on, with its tall chimney pots is the Palazzo Gaggia, formerly Ca’Giustianini, former home of the American Katherine Bronson, who had a famous salon frequented by Browning, Whistler and Henry James. The Gritti Palace Hotel was where Effie and John Ruskin stayed in 1851 while he was writing The Stones of Venice. Further down the canal is the Palazzo Barbaro which was rented by Isabella Stewart Gardner in the 1890s, and was the site of another famous American salon. After a sharp bend in the canal we come to the Palazzo Mocenigo where Byron lived for three years and, near the Rialto Bridge is Palazzo Mangilli-Valmarana, home of the merchant, art collector and dealer Consul Smith, the man the grand tourists would go to for a Canaletto.