EXPLORING THE SOU­THERN LAGOON

Summer is the be­st ti­me to vi­sit the islands sur­roun­ding Ve­ni­ce. Not on­ly the tra­di­tio­nal tou­ri­st de­sti­na­tions of Mu­ra­no, Burano and Tor­cel­lo, but tho­se lo­ca­ted in the sou­thern area of the lagoon.

Where Venice - - Contents - BY ROMENA BRUGNEROTTO

Summer is the be­st ti­me to vi­sit the islands sur­roun­ding Ve­ni­ce. Ea­ch has a dif­fe­rent cha­rac­ter star­ting from the fa­med Li­do.

Al­thou­gh you might be temp­ted to spend your en­ti­re stay in Ve­ni­ce, treat your­self and vi­sit so­me of the other ma­gni­fi­cent islands. Ea­ch has a dif­fe­rent cha­rac­ter, and al­thou­gh the be­st means of transport is a pri­va­te boat, you can al­so en­joy their beau­ty by using public transport. If you'd li­ke to vi­sit se­ve­ral islands du­ring the cour­se of the day, we re­com­mend pur­cha­sing a 24-hour public transport pass. The pass costs €20 and gua­ran­tees un­li­mi­ted tra­vel on wa­ter bu­ses.

THE LI­DO, A PARADISE OF NA­TU­RE AND CE­LE­BRI­TIES

One of the be­st-kno­wn islands of the Ve­ne­tian lagoon is the Li­do, mea­ning ‘bea­ch' in Italian. Mea­su­ring less than 200 me­tres in wid­th in cer­tain areas, the Li­do is a 12km stret­ch of sand, stra­te­gi­cal­ly po­si­tio­ned bet­ween the Lagoon and the open sea, and is on­ly con­nec­ted to the ci­ty and dry land by ‘va­po­ret­ti' or fer­ry boa­ts. The part over­loo­king St. Mark's fa­ces on­to the lagoon, whi­le its bea­ches are lo­ca­ted ju­st a short walk from the va­po­ret­to sta­tion to­wards the ea­st. Un­li­ke Ve­ni­ce, the Li­do has stree­ts whi­ch means that you can get around by car. In the ear­ly 20th cen­tu­ry, Rolls Roy­ce's, Ca­dil­lac's and Ben­tleys aboun­ded at the en­tran­ces of grand ho­tels. Al­thou­gh the island, espe­cial­ly in the Ma­la­moc­co area, was in­ha­bi­ted from the be­gin­ning of Ve­ni­ce's hi­sto­ry, the Li­do be­ca­me fa­mous at the be­gin­ning of the 20th cen­tu­ry as a holiday re­sort for weal­thy Nor­thern Eu­ro­peans sear­ching for a place to soak up the Me­di­ter­ra­nean sun. It was he­re that Tho­mas Mann set his fa­mous no­vel ‘Dea­th in Ve­ni­ce'. The book tells the sto­ry of Pro­fes­sor Gu­stav von Aschen­ba­ch's stay at the Ho­tel Des Bains on the Li­do and his en­coun­ter wi­th a beau­ti­ful Po­li­sh boy na­med Ta­zio wi­th whom he fell in lo­ve.

In or­der to di­sco­ver the island's nu­me­rous at­trac­tions, hi­re a bi­ke from Li­do On Bi­ke (via­le San­ta Ma­ria Eli­sa­bet­ta, 21b). The Italian

Un­mi­sta­ka­bly Ve­ne­tian in feel, yet co­smo­po­li­tan enou­gh to im­press an in­ter­na­tio­nal jet-set­ting clien­te­le, the Ho­tel Ex­cel­sior ope­ned in Ju­ly 1908. Over the years, no­ta­ble guests ha­ve in­clu­ded Win­ston Chur­chill, the Du­ke and Du­chess of Wind­sor, Mar­le­ne Die­tri­ch, Bar­ba­ra Hut­ton, John Stein­beck, In­grid Berg­man and the Aga Khan. In 1932, it was ca­ta­pul­ted in­to the ma­gi­cal world of mo­vies when the fir­st-ever Ve­ni­ce Film Fe­sti­val was held on its ter­ra­ce.

Art Nou­veau vil­las lo­ca­ted on the island are de­fi­ni­te­ly wor­th a vi­sit. Al­thou­gh ma­ny of them ha­ve been mo­di­fied and re­sto­red over the years, their charm has re­mai­ned in­tact. The vil­la hou­sing the Ho­tel Au­so­nia & Hun­ga­ria, re­no­w­ned for its ma­jo­li­ca faça­de and its asym­me­tri­cal ter­ra­ce, and Vil­la Bian­ca in via Ze­no, a pa­la­tial buil­ding ri­chly de­co­ra­ted wi­th Neo-go­thic ele­men­ts, are two of the mo­st in­te­re­sting.

If you want to stop for an ice cream or even a quick meal or snack, head to Bar Ma­le­ti (Gran Via­le, 45). When it co­mes to lun­ch, you'll be spoilt for choi­ce. The go-to ad­dress for tho­se in sear­ch of a tra­di­tio­nal fi­sh-ba­sed me­nu is

La Fa­vo­ri­ta (Via F. Duo­do, 33), whi­le for a quick lun­ch you can se­lect from the Bud­d­ha Soul&Re­stò whi­ch ser­ves de­li­cious Ve­ne­toIn­dian and ve­ge­ta­rian food (Gran Via­le, 28/B) or the quick di­shes and piz­zas found at Ai Do Ma­ti (Gran Via­le, 49), Par­co del­le Ro­se (whi­ch has a lo­ve­ly gar­den) or the char­ming Ro­xi Bar. For a lun­ch or din­ner wi­th a great wa­ter­front view, we re­com­mend Vil­la La­gu­na, lo­ca­ted di­rec­tly in front of the ba­sin of San Mar­co. In summer, the island is pac­ked wi­th Ve­ne­tians who rent small ba­thing hu­ts to sto­re eve­ry­thing they need at the bea­ch. Al­thou­gh you can choo­se from among an ar­ray of ba­thing re­sorts, a mu­st-try ex­pe­rien­ce is ren­ting a hut or ‘tu­cul' at the pre­sti­gious Ho­tel Des Bains (al­thou­gh the ho­tel is cur­ren­tly clo­sed for re­sto­ra­tion work, the bea­ch is beau­ti­ful and ac­ces­si­ble). For years, the Li­do bea­ch, whi­ch is al­so par­ti­cu­lar­ly chil­d­friend­ly due to its shal­low wa­ters, has boa­sted ‘blue flag' sta­tus, in re­co­gni­tion of its clean wa­ters and top-le­vel fa­ci­li­ties.

At the end of summer, the ol­de­st film fe­sti­val in the world turns the slee­py Li­do in­to a mi­ni

Stron­gholds, fi­sher­men's vil­la­ges, the hea­d­quar­ters of si­lent mo­na­ste­ries, re­trea­ts for the sick or bu­rial grounds. Ea­ch of the lagoon's smal­ler islands – whe­ther co­ve­red wi­th fer­ti­le ve­ge­ta­ble gar­dens or ho­me to glass and la­ce-ma­king ate­liers – has a spe­ci­fic hi­sto­ry and cal­ling. They are cal­led ‘na­ti­ve' islands be­cau­se they we­re the crad­le of Ve­ne­tian ci­vi­li­za­tion.

Hol­ly­wood. The fe­sti­val re­vol­ves around the Pa­laz­zo del Ci­ne­ma and the Ho­tel Ex­cel­sior to whi­ch ac­tors, di­rec­tors, pro­du­cers, jour­na­lists and ce­le­bri­ties from all over the world, flock. Hol­ly­wood stars and les­ser kno­wn fa­ces on the Eu­ro­pean or Asian film sce­ne co­me to walk the red car­pet, at­tend ex­clu­si­ve par­ties, be in­ter­viewed or sim­ply min­gle wi­th the cro­wds. In ad­di­tion to the pro­me­na­de, lan­ding stops and, na­tu­ral­ly, the Pa­laz­zo del Ci­ne­ma, all clas­sic ce­leb-spot­ting lo­ca­tions in­clu­de the Li­do's hi­sto­ric ho­tels. The Ex­cel­sior whi­ch ho­sted the ve­ry fir­st fe­sti­val in 1932 is fir­st and fo­re­mo­st.

The mo­st sought-af­ter award at the Ve­ni­ce Film Fe­sti­val is the Leone d'Oro and their re­ci­pien­ts of­ten re­cei­ve other im­por­tant awards du­ring the cour­se of the year: it ap­pears that the Leone d'Oro brings good luck.

Ano­ther dif­fe­rent and emo­tio­nal ex­pe­rien­ce is a vi­sit to the Jewi­sh ce­me­te­ry, one of the ol­de­st Jewi­sh ce­me­te­ries in the world (the Jewi­sh Mu­seum of Ve­ni­ce can al­so be vi­si­ted on re­que­st). The ce­me­te­ry dates back to 1386 wi­th tomb­sto­nes and mo­nu­men­ts da­ted bet­ween 500A.D. and 700 A.D. The ce­me­te­ry is of enor­mous hi­sto­ric and ar­ti­stic in­te­re­st and ap­pea­led grea­tly to ro­man­tic lu­mi­na­ries su­ch as Goe­the, By­ron and Shel­ley.

The Oa­sis of Al­be­ro­ni, an area re­co­gni­zed and pro­tec­ted by the WWF sin­ce 1997, is a na­tu­re re­ser­ve lo­ca­ted on the sou­th end of the Li­do. The area com­pri­ses 160 hec­ta­res of ter­rain, in­clu­ding two ki­lo­me­ters of gol­den, san­dy du­nes that stret­ch from the Mu­raz­zi to the Al­be­ro­ni dam, and a ma­gni­fi­cent pi­ne

fo­re­st. Among other at­trac­tions, the area is ho­me to Al­be­ro­ni's Cir­co­lo Golf Ve­ne­zia, a beau­ti­ful­ly land­sca­ped links cour­se built in 1928 set again­st a stun­ning bac­k­drop of um­brel­la pi­nes and po­plars. Hen­ry Ford, foun­der of the fa­mous au­to­mo­ti­ve hou­se and an avid fan of Ve­ni­ce, com­mis­sio­ned the cour­se in 1926, when he di­sco­ve­red to his di­sap­point­ment that the­re was no­whe­re for him to play golf, a sport wi­de­ly prac­ti­ced in Ame­ri­ca, but not in Ita­ly at that ti­me. Whi­le in the area, ma­ke su­re to vi­sit Ma­la­moc­co, a small, an­cient to­wn of­fe­ring vi­si­tors a mi­ni ex­pe­rien­ce of Ve­ni­ce wi­th its ca­nals, ‘cam­piel­li' and an­cient buil­dings. The to­wn bar is cro­w­ded wi­th el­der­ly men gos­si­ping or play­ing cards, and gi­ves vi­si­tors the im­pres­sion of being in a ti­me warp. Tho­se wi­shing to en­joy an un­for­get­ta­ble sea­food ex­pe­rien­ce should head to the Trat­to­ria Al Pon­te di Bor­go (Cal­le Mer­ce­ria, 27). Con­ti­nuing our vi­sit to­wards Al­be­ro­ni, the island be­co­mes in­crea­sin­gly wild and the du­nes of the public bea­ch ta­ke cen­tre sta­ge. Al­so da­ting back to by­go­ne ti­mes in a mo­re nor­ther­ly di­rec­tion, is the set­tle­ment of San Ni­co­lò, that fea­tu­res a Be­ne­dic­ti­ne com­plex built in the 11th cen­tu­ry. Lo­ca­ted in a stra­te­gic po­si­tion, San Ni­co­lò is si­tua­ted at the junc­tu­re whe­re the lagoon en­ters the open sea.

THE SMAL­LER ISLANDS

Whi­le na­vi­ga­ting the sou­thern lagoon you might di­sco­ver se­ve­ral islands that thou­gh now aban­do­ned we­re on­ce used for spe­ci­fic pur­po­ses: La Gra­zia, a re­treat for pil­grims tra­vel­ling to the ea­st and sub­se­quen­tly a ho­spi­tal for in­fec­tious di­sea­ses, the island of Laz­za­ret­to Vec­chio whi­ch was esta­bli­shed to ho­st pla­gue-stric­ken pa­tien­ts and la­ter used as a mi­li­ta­ry ba­se, and the island of Po­ve­glia. The lat­ter was for­mer­ly a th­ri­ving cen­tre thanks to its stra­te­gic lo­ca­tion bet­ween Ve­ni­ce and the Li­do and is now a ‘for­bid­den' island wi­th a dark, twi­sted pa­st, that has the re­pu­ta­tion of one of the world's mo­st haun­ted islands. Other islands ha­ve now been con­ver­ted for dif­fe­rent pur­po­ses, for exam­ple, in ad­di­tion to being an im­por­tant con­gress cen­tre, the Island of San Ser­vo­lo, for­mer­ly the si­te of an asy­lum for the in­sa­ne, al­so hou­ses the ‘Mu­seum of Mad­ness'.

FIVE STAR GUESTS

The island of San Cle­men­te hou­ses the San Cle­men­te Pa­la­ce Kem­pin­ski: a ho­tel cho­sen pri­ma­ri­ly by tho­se in sear­ch of pea­ce and pri­va­cy. This pa­la­tial island property fea­tu­res 190 rooms and sui­tes, a swim­ming pool (a ra­re com­mo­di­ty in Ve­ni­ce) and an ex­clu­si­ve lu­xu­ry spa. The spa, ow­ned by well-kno­wn lu­xu­ry brand The Mer­chant of Ve­ni­ce, of­fers cu­sto­mi­zed treat­men­ts and a pri­va­te spa sui­te that can be boo­ked for tho­se loo­king for a ro­man­tic esca­pe. The island of Sac­ca Ses­so­la is ho­me to the Ho­tel JW Mar­riott Ve­ni­ce. The ho­tel, whi­ch ope­ned a few years ago, is a sought-af­ter de­sti­na­tion. In ad­di­tion to its stun­ning rooms, it boasts a beau­ti­ful pa­no­ra­mic ter­ra­ce (al­so open to vi­si­tors who are not stay­ing at the ho­tel) wi­th an in­fi­ni­ty pool, a spa wi­th a view over San Mar­co and the Do­po­la­vo­ro re­stau­rant whi­ch ear­ned a Mi­che­lin star ju­st six mon­ths af­ter it ope­ned.

PELLESTRINA, THE HIDDEN JEWEL OF THE LAGOON

To com­ple­te your tour of this part of the lagoon, an ab­so­lu­te mu­st is a vi­sit to the island of Pellestrina, whi­ch can be ac­ces­sed from the Li­do by fer­ry boat. The be­st way of get­ting around he­re is al­so by bi­ke (you can use the one ren­ted on the Li­do). This island is re­no­w­ned for its an­cient hi­sto­ry. In ad­di­tion to de­fen­ding itself from in­va­sions, the island had to deal wi­th the dan­gers of the sea. The Mu­raz­zi, the sea walls vi­si­ble on the bea­ch, are an im­por­tant means of pro­tec­ting its in­ha­bi­tan­ts from the ti­des and storms of the Adria­tic. All of the island's vil­la­ges are strung out along the wa­ter's ed­ge on the lagoon si­de wi­th ti­ny cot­ta­ges pain­ted in a ka­lei­do­sco­pe of co­lours, and sco­res of fi­shing boa­ts moo­red on the wharf. Two main stree­ts run pa­ral­lel: one nea­rer the sea and the other skir­ting the lagoon, whi­le the island's ‘cal­li', ‘cam­piel­li' and ‘cor­ti' are the cen­tres of vil­la­ge li­fe. The fir­st vil­la­ge that vi­si­tors ar­ri­ving from the Li­do will see is San­ta Ma­ria del Ma­re whe­re you can vi­sit the im­po­sing Fort of San Pie­tro - and then San Pie­tro in Vol­ta. We re­com­mend two ad­dres­ses for lovers of good cui­si­ne: Agri­tu­ri­smo al­le Val­li re­no­w­ned for its beau­ti­ful cour­tyard, view and in­cre­di­bly fre­sh fi­sh and Da Na­ne al Can­ton in San Pie­tro whi­ch of­fers de­li­cious lo­cal fa­re in a sim­ple but wel­co­ming am­bien­ce (its ‘pa­stic­cio di pe­sce' is fa­mous th­rou­ghout the region). If you're loo­king for so­me­thing a lit­tle mo­re so­phi­sti­ca­ted, ma­ke your way to Da Ce­le­ste, one of the be­st sea­food restaurants in Ve­ni­ce. Find a ta­ble on the woo­den ter­ra­ce, whi­ch has swee­ping views of the lagoon, and or­der the de­lec­ta­ble mus­sel soup. Con­ti­nuing our tour we find Por­to­sec­co and, on the sou­thern si­de of the island, the na­tu­re re­ser­ve of Ca' Ro­man: a pro­tec­ted oa­sis for flo­ra and fau­na of whi­te san­dy bea­ches, du­nes and pi­newoods. The area is a na­tu­re lovers' paradise, far re­mo­ved from the hu­stle and bu­stle of tou­ri­st-in­va­ded Ve­ni­ce.

To end your day's ex­plo­ra­tion on a hi­gh no­te, stop and wat­ch the sun set­ting over the lagoon whi­le en­joy­ing a wel­co­me ape­ri­ti­vo at Bar Ge­la­te­ria La­gu­na. We gua­ran­tee an un­for­get­ta­ble ex­pe­rien­ce.

Ho­tel Des Bains

Ho­tel Au­so­nia & Hun­ga­ria

San Ser­vo­lo

Cir­co­lo Golf Ve­ne­zia

Do­po­la­vo­ro

Pellestrina

Mu­raz­zi, Pellestrina

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