The Lido is a slender sandbank 12 km (8 miles) long, which forms a natural barrier between Venice and the open sea. It is both a residential suburb of the city and more importantly for tourists, the city’s seaside resort.
This island in the lagoon, as well as her sister Pellestrina, allows cars It is linked to the Tronchetto island car park by car ferry almost every half an hour. From Venice, the Lido is regularly served by a vaporetti.
The Lido’s main season runs from June to September, the most crowded months being July and August. In winter, most hotels are closed.
The World’s First Lido
In the 19th century, before the Lido was developed, the island was a favourite haunt of Shelley, Byron and other literary figures. Byron swam from the Lido to Santa Chiara via the Grand Canal in under four hours, beginning the tradition of a famous swimming marathon with a Cup, the Byron Cup, which lasted until swimming along the Grand Canal ceased because of traffic and water pollution.
Bathing establishments were gradually opened, and by the turn of the century the Lido had become one of Europe’s most fashionable seaside resorts, frequented by royalty and film stars. They stayed in the grand hotels, swam in the sea or sat in deckchairs on the sands by the striped cabanas.
Life in the Lido’s heyday was brilliantly evoked in Thomas Mann’s book Death in Venice. The Hotel des Bains, where the melancholic Von Aschenbach stayed, was featured in the novel and in Visconti’s 1970’s film. It is still a prominent landmark and an elegant place to stay.
The other face of the island overlooked by Mann, and Visconti’ was that of fishing and rural life. Artichokes grow here at their best, and oysters from the lagoon were the preferred choice of Napoleon. who had them delivered in sealed boxes throughout his Campaigns.
The Lido is no longer the prestigious resort it was in the 1930s. Beaches are crowded, the streets busy and the ferries packed with day trippers. Nevertheless, the sand, sea and sporting facilities provide a welcome break from city culture. The backwaters provide a green respite from the heat of Venice.
Exploring the Island
The Lido can be covered by bus but a popular form of transport is the bicycle. You can hire one from the shop almost opposite the vaporetto stop at Santa Maria Elisabetta.
The east side of the island is fringed by sandy beaches. For passengers arriving by ferry at the main landing stage, these beaches are reached by bus, taxi or on foot along the Gran Viale Santa Maria Elisabetta. This is the main shopping street of the Lido.
At the end of the Gran Viale you can either turn left for the beaches of San Nicolo, or right along the Lungomare G Marconi, which boasts the grandest hotels and the best beaches. The hotels control the beaches in this area and charge exorbitant fees for the use of beach facilities.
When the road turns 90° to the right and joins via Sandro Gallo, you can choose to climb the small pedestrian-bike track leading to the Alberoni lightship all along the Adriatic Sea shore, if you are walking or biking. This area is freely accessible, and offers the only chance to be free of the sand and have your swim in a rocky environment. About 20 small seawalls create a series of half pools, often frequented by naturists.
Via Sandro Gallo, a long, straight road, leads south-west to the village of Malamocco and then to Alberoni.
The street runs mainly in the middle of the islands, but a right turn can be made to admire the sight of the lagoon and of Venice from the Lido.
Malamocco offers some pleasant fish restaurants. The evidence that this was once Metamauco, the 8th century seat of the lagoon’s government, Bishop and Duke can be found in a couple of ancient palaces, inside the small and otherwise poor village. During their empire, a Roman’s road to salt deposits of Grado and Trieste passed along the two islands of Pellestrina and Lido. Malamocco still shows a tiny roman Bridge, half way between the Lagoon and the Sea shores.
Alberoni, at the southern end of the Lido, is the site of a golf course, a public beach and the landing stage for the ferry across to Pellestrina.
A nature reserve covers a dune area, where flora and fauna of the sandy areas can be observed.
On the opposite side of this long island, San Nicolo area boasts a large Roman bridge along the lagoon side. The monastery of San Nicolo, founded in 1044 and rebuilt in the 16th century, and a 16th century palace, once the seat of the Council of Ten, the political police of the Serenissima. Across the Porto di Lido, you can see the island-fortress of Sant’Andrea, built by Michele Sanmicheli between 1435 and 1449, to guard the main entrance of the lagoon. Then the Vignole isle, the bigger Certosa (Benedictine Central Monastery) until dissolution under Napoleon and now reduced mainly to wild grass land, was a port for pleasure craft. On the right, you’ll see a long and green line of land, Sant’ Erasmo Island, still the vegetable garden of the town, whose products are sold in a particular area in the Rialto Market.
It was to the Porto di Lido that the Doge was rowed annually to cast a gold ring into the sea in symbolic marriage each spring. After the ceremony he would visit the nearby church and the monastery.
The nearby Jewish cemetery which is open to the public dates back to 1386.
The rest of this northern area was given over to an airfield. The Aeroclub located there organizes private flying and parachuting lessons.