The Grand Canal or Canalazzo is the heart of Venice. Ever since the founding days of the Venetian empire, this canal served as the major thoroughfare for the Venetian people. The most important historical palaces and famous Venetian buildings wrap around the edges of the canal. Once upon a time, the Grand Canal was the like the Rodeo Drive for Venetian aristocrats. The who's who of Europe could be seen relaxing in gondolas, wearing the newest and most extravagant fashions, cruising up and down the river.