One morning I hopped on the vaporetto and took the twenty-minute ride to Lido di Venezia, a long, thin island that separates the Venetian lagoon from the Adriatic Sea.
Historically this twelve kilometer sand bar played a military role, to defend Venice from attack from the sea. However, from the mid-nineteenth century until its heyday at the turn of the 20th century, it was developed into Europe’s first real beach resort. The origin of the word ‘lido’ in English, meaning a bathing establishment, can be traced back to here.
The relaxed, spacious atmosphere of the island is in marked contrast to the frenetic pace of the cramped historic city. It’s very much a residential neighbourhood with numerous villas and hotels built in the Art Nouveau style of the time (known in Italy as Stile Floreale) or in the indigenous Italian version known as Stile Liberty.
I like to take my time so I chose to explore on foot but you could hire a bicycle from Noleggio Biciclette Gardin www.biciclettegardin.com, just off Piazzale Santa Maria Elisabetta near the vaporetto pier. You’ll need an ID document to use as a deposit.
Everywhere I mention on the route can be found on my map (key top left).
I started by viewing Villa Perez at 2 Via Paolo Erizzo and walked around the triangle formed by Via Perasto and Via Negroponte looking at the lovely villas.
Next I did a loop up and down Via Lepanto by the canal.
Beautiful wrought-iron gates are a common feature.
If I was going to stay at a hotel then the Hotel Atlanta Augustus www.hotelatlantaugustus.com at 15 Via Lepanto would most likely be within my price range, unlike the grand hotels later in this post.
From here I walked down Gran Viale Santa Maria Elisabetta, the street that crosses the island from the vaporetto stop. The Grande Albergo Ausonia & Hungaria www.ausoniahungaria.com is at 28 Gran Viale Santa Maria Elisabetta.
Opened in 1907, the maiolica Stile Liberty façade with its Renaissance motifs was added between 1914 and 1916. The rooms were furnished by Eugenio Quarti, a famous Milanese furniture maker.
At the far end of Gran Viale Santa Maria Elisabetta is the Blue Moon beach complex designed by architect Giancarlo De Carlo.
There’s a bar, a buffet and a shop here and you can get access to the sand. There are free public beaches without facilities to the north of Blue Moon, and in the south of the island, among the dunes at Alberoni, there’s a naturist beach.
From here I walked down Lungomare Guglielmo Marconi passing the Neo-Classical Hotel des Bains, formerly one of the big three grand hotels but now converted to apartments.
A little further along you come to the Palazzo Del Casinò, a Rationalist building constructed during the fascist era in the 1930s which today hosts conventions and film festival events.
Right next door is another Rationalist masterpiece, the Palazzo del Cinema which is the headquarters of the Venice International Film Festival (Mostra Internazionale d’Arte Cinematografica della Biennale di Venezia), the world’s oldest film festival (since 1932) and one of the three most prestigious (alongside Cannes and Berlin).
On the next corner is the neo-classical Leone D’Oro building which now serves as a cafe for the film festival.
And just over the road at 41 Lungomare Guglielmo Marconi is my favourite Stile Liberty building, the five star Hotel Palace Excelsior www.hotelexcelsiorvenezia.com which incorporates Byzantine, Moorish and Venetian influences. Built in 1908, the architect was Giovanni Sardi.
I’d love to be able to afford to stay here but I could only stretch to a Negroni on the terrace (20€).
From here I cut back inland along Via delle Quattro Fontane by the canal…
… and then headed back to the vaporetto stop along Via Sandro Gallo taking in more residential buildings and apartment blocks along the way.
More islands next!