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The canal is an essential element of the waterways of Venice and its lagoon.

The term canal is used in the historic center to indicate the waterways which, due to their width, length and density of sustained traffic, constitute the real backbones of the navigation system inside the city.

 They are:

 the Grand Canal, which crosses the whole heart of the city from west to east separating it in two and ends in the San Marco Basin;
 the Cannaregio Canal, which joins the initial part of the Grand Canal with the northern part of the lagoon in the direction of Mestre;
 the Giudecca Canal, which connects the western part of the city to the south directly with the San Marco Basin;
 the Scomenzera Canal, which directly joins the Giudecca Canal with the initial part of the Grand Canal in Santa Chiara, passing between the Stazione Marittima and the Santa Marta area.
 Outside the urban context, the term canal is used to specifically name the natural navigable lagoon paths that surround the city or that connect it to the mainland or to the inlets, the main canals are:

 Orphan channel
 Canale dei Marani
 Canale dei Petroli
 Vittorio Emanuele canal
 Santo Spirito canal
 San Nicolò canal
 These channels are actually lagoon areas with greater water flow that have a greater natural and / or artificial depth than the surrounding lagoon from which they are otherwise indistinct.  Often these are vestigial remains of ancient river beds.  The greater depth of these channels makes them suitable for navigation even of large tonnage.  A system of poles placed at regular distances (the so-called brìcołe) indicates the boundary of these channels, beyond which the depth of the lagoon decreases drastically to the point that navigation is impossible except with the typical flat-bottomed rowing boats.

 It is with this second meaning that some navigable sections, now incorporated into the urban core, have kept the ancient name of "canal".  In fact, until the nineteenth century these natural waterways marked the boundaries of the city with the lagoon, before the subsequent interventions of landfill of the surrounding areas that have incorporated them into the city.  They are:

 the Canale di Santa Chiara at Piazzale Roma and incorporated following the silting for the construction of the Maritime Station;
 the Canale di Santa Maria Maggiore, also in the Piazzale Roma area, subsequently incorporated into the same burials;
 the Canale della Misericordia, which flows into the homonymous pocket, incorporated with the urbanization following the partial burial of the area;
 the Canale di San Pietro, in Castello, incorporated following the landfills that incorporated the island of Sant'Elena into the city.

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