The canal system in the city of Venice, Italy, was built to facilitate transportation of goods in and out of the city as early as 400 A.D. By the 10th century, Venice was a popular trade port, and its canal systems were used by merchants who conducted trading business on the seas. Today, the canals are still used to transport people and goods throughout the city.
The city of Venice is comprised of 118 individual islands, 177 canals and 416 bridges. Since it is so close to sea level and floods easily, it has been easier for the people of Venice to create waterways for transportation than to build roads. The largest canal is the Grand Canal, which splits the city in half and has a characteristic "S" shape. According to Veneto-Explorer, more than 18 million tourists visit the city each year. There are over 350 gondolas which navigate the canal system, and many of these are used to transport tourists.
The Grand Canal of Venice, which travels from the Saint Mark Basin to the Santa Lucia railroad station, is approximately 2.36 miles long and 100 to 300 feet wide. The water is about 16 feet deep. Several different vessels are used to transport goods and people down the canals today. Vaporetti are water buses that transport large numbers of people. Gondolas are essentially water taxis, which transport individuals and small groups.