Sweeping through the heart of Venice in a giant reverse S curve, the Grand Canal is the principal boulevard through the city, connecting Piazza San Marco, Rialto Bridge, and the arrival points of the rail station and bridge from the mainland. Only four bridges cross its 3.8-kilometer length, but stripped-down gondolas called traghetti shuttle back and forth at several points between bridges. The Grand Canal was the address of choice for anyone who claimed any influence in Venice. Palaces of all the leading families open onto the canal, their showy Venetian Gothic and Early Renaissance facades facing the water, by which visitors arrived. These grand palaces – or at least their facades – are well preserved today, and a trip along the canal by vaporetto is the best way to see them. And, of course, a ride along the Grand Canal in a gondola is one of the most romantic things to do in Venice at night.