LIDO DI VENEZIA
An island, a town and a nature reserve, but also a jet-setters' paradise.
The Lido (meaning beach in Italian) is a separate island from Venice. Measuring less than 200 metres in depth in certain areas, it is a 12km stretch of sand, strategically positioned between the Lagoon and the open sea, only connected to the city and dry land by ‘vaporetti' or ferry boats.
The clear difference between the Lido and Venice is that the Lido has real streets, which means you get around by car. In mid-November, Rolls Royce's, Cadillac's and Bentleys abound at the entrances of grand hotels. However, today, it is considered chicer to access the Lido by boat or explore it on foot or by bicycle.
WHAT TO SEE - The nature reserve and wild sand dunes of the Alberoni, recognized and protected by the WWF since 1997, are the perfect place for a quick swim. The area comprises 160 hectares of land, including two kilometers of golden sand dunes that extend from Murazzi to the Alberoni dam, and a beautiful pine forest. For a natural beach experience, the Lido also offers several free beaches, like the sandy dunes of San Nicolò, the rocky outcrops of the Murazzi, or the beach known to the Venetians as ‘Bluemoon”.
Although the Lido is Venice's beach, it is also much more. An island, a town with its own history and a nature reserve, it is also a jet-setters' paradise, with luxury hotels and exclusive villas. In September, it becomes the world capital of cinema.
Among other attractions, the area is home to an exclusive golf club set against a stunning backdrop of umbrella pines and poplars.
Founder of the famous automotive house and an avid fan of Venice, Henry Ford commissioned the course in 1926, when he discovered to his disappointment that there was nowhere else where he could play golf, a sport widely practiced in America, but not in Italy at that time.
WHERE TO GO - Moving to the other end of the island, we find Malamocco, a small, ancient town that offers visitors a mini experience of
Venice with its canals, ‘campielli' and ancient buildings. Also dating back to olden times, in a more northerly direction, is the settlement of San Nicolò, featuring a Benedictine complex built in the 11th century.
WHAT TO DO - Don't miss a walk, or even better, a bike ride along the Murazzi, the remains of ancient fortresses which are now used as a race track. Bicycles are provided by several of the island's hotels. If you happen to be there at the right time, you will be treated to a breathtaking sunset. What's more, you'll also get a glimpse of a wilder, more untamed side of Venice, amidst the boats and fishermen searching for clams. One of the island's rituals, that you should not miss is having a ‘spritz': the Venetian cocktail or aperitivo par excellence. You won't have any trouble finding one at any bar on the Gran
Viale, the Lido's promenade. If you're not pressed for time you can catch a boat from the Gran Viale to Pellestrina (where you can eat fabulously fresh fish, or a sandwich with fried sardines), or travel to Chioggia, a second, smaller Venice that abounds in fabulous small restaurants.
SPECIAL EVENTS - For many years the Lido has been the playground of celebrities and crowned heads. It all begans in the second half of the
19th century when the international jet-set discovered its long sandy beaches. It is therefore not surprising that in August 1932 the terrace of the Hotel Excelsior hosted the first film festival, attended by all the film stars of the time. Then, a special location, the Palazzo del Cinema, was assigned to the most glamorous event of the year.
At the end of summer, the festival turns the sleepy Lido into a mini Hollywood, attracting rising stars of the screen, eager to be photographed, plus hordes of fans, film buffs and onlookers.
ICONIC LANDMARKS. Left, dating back to circa 1935, this ‘Animated view of the Grand Hotel Excelsior on the Lido in Venice' is a part of the prestigious Alinari Archives of Florence. In addition to other priceless originals in albumin, this period reproduction is available at the La Salizada gallery (page 35).
Below, one of the most memorable scene from ‘Death in Venice' (1971), the cinematographic masterpiece directed by Luchino Visconti.