Films, food and fun from the Lido in Venice
Come hungry: A Venice film festival veteran’s diary from the Lido, a charming sandbar with culinary delights everywhere you look
Culture writer Chris Vognar finds Venice hard to beat.
VENICE, Italy — Arriving in Venice isn’t that different from landing in most big cities: You leave the airport, and chances are you grab a cab. Except in Venice, the cabs are speedboats, and the highway is the Adriatic Sea. The spray hits your face as you gaze upon ancient islands and the open water, awaiting your destination.
The sensation never gets old. I’ve been attending the Venice International Film Festival (which just wrapped its 75th edition) for four years now, each time as a panelist discussing the films of the Biennale College (a festival program that finances and exhibits micro-budget films).
The festival takes place on the Lido, a long sandbar that was designated as a seaside resort in the 19th century. It’s a charming town in which everyone seems to ride a bicycle or have a small, adorable dog (some of which are perched in bicycle baskets).
I spend most of my Venice time on the Lido, and much of that time within the sprawling festival village. I try to venture outward, onto the rest of the Lido or other islands if I have a free day. But for now, we’re focusing on the Lido, particularly where and what you need to eat when you get there. This isn’t a comprehensive guide to a Venice vacation. It’s my subjective experience of a city I have quickly grown to love.
I’m a creature of habit, so it’s a good thing I’m fond of the hotel I stay in every year. The Grande Albergo Ausonia & Hungaria has been around since 1907, and the ornate mosaic façade dates to 1913. It always reminds me of something out of Wes Anderson’s Grand
Budapest Hotel, full of Old World charm but also modern amenities. (Last year, I sprung for a massage in the fancy spa and wasn’t disappointed.)
The breakfast buffet is loaded, and the garden patio is the kind of place where you could sit all day and read in tranquility. Until, that is, you get hungry again.
There’s no shortage of eating options on the Lido, but my favorite spot is Ristorante Pizzeria Ai Do Mati. The pizza is just about perfect: thin crust, light sauce, cheese that tastes like it was made in the kitchen.
My favorite is the Caprice, which comes with just a hint of basil and tomatoes that explode with flavor. It’s reasonably priced, and the patio is cozy. Dine on the night of a big soccer match, and you’ll find pleasantly rowdy revelry surrounding the TV.
After that pizza, you’ll need some dessert. Gelato is everywhere on the Lido, scoops of abundance springing out from seemingly every storefront.
At some point in the past few years, a cohort made up of my girlfriend and critic colleagues determined that the best option is Gelido Lato, a small, unassuming little space that usually has a line. The flavors aren’t as aggressively sweet as they are at the competing joints. Everything tastes fresh. Plus, they have the happiest napkins you’ll ever use.
For your daytime sweet tooth, walk a little ways off the main drag and look for a little shop with a long line. The line is helpful, because Pasticceria Maggion doesn’t even have a sign. It doesn’t need one. This is the kind of place that draws in tourists and locals alike.
No coffee, no tables, just succulent pastry and focaccia pizza that will make you bow down to the olive oil gods. Family-owned and -operated since 1958, it’s a hidden treasure. (It’s also located just a block or so from the festival village, which makes it a filmgoer honey trap).
As you might have guessed, I don’t lose any weight when I’m in Venice. I suggest you don’t, either. Mangia, and enjoy your journey.
Carlo Pistacchi of Gelateria Alaska in the Santa Croce area of Venice has been making ice cream using fresh ingredients for more than 25 years. You can also find the frozen treat in abundance on the Lido.
Tourists and residents board a water bus bound for Venice fronice from the ferry terminal at the Lido, a long sandbar that has been a seaside resort for Venetians since the 19th century.
The Grande Albergo Ausonia & Hungaria hotel provides Old World charm with modern amenities.
The signless Pasticceria Maggion serves up sweet and savory pastry and pizza to big afternoon crowds.