Lido (50)

This narrow stretch of sand 12 kilometres long is at the entrance of the lagoon of Venice, and beyond the beaches is the Adriatic Sea. Once a spiritual retreat for artists, such as Percy Bysshe Shelley or Lord Byron, and an exclusive holiday resort for Europe’s wealthiest, today it can be an enjoyable day out just 10 minutes by vaporetto from the city.

Like the majority of places specialising in beach tourism, the appearance of the Lido changes dramatically at the end of September, when the season ends, and until the following summer. Most of the hotels close then, waiting for the pleasant summer temperatures to return.

The beaches are on the part of the coastline bathed by the Adriatic. Seeing as there are roads here, you can choose your mode of transport to go along the Gran Viale Maria Elisabetta from the ferry station to the beaches of San Nicolò and Lungomare G. Marconi. If you feel like it, you can even hire a bicycle, very popular here.

Before setting out, you should be aware that its sophisticated past is long forgotten and the area is now known for being very crowded. The only exclusive thing about these beaches is that the hotels that overlook it carry out an abusive control of the prices for related services, such as the sun loungers, which may make your visit much more expensive.

The most famous hotels are the Gran Hotel Excelsior and the Hôtel des Bains which, with their imposing appearance, tell us what the Lido may have been like in the first decades of the 20th century, with its guests from the upper classes and royalty going towards the beaches with pure white bathing suits and towels at the ready.

If you are a film buff, perhaps you will remember that in the film version that Luchino Visconti made of the Thomas Mann novel Death in Venice, the tortured character of Von Aschenbach stayed in the Hôtel des Bains. The film has several beach sequences that rigorously reflect the past splendour of this earthly paradise.

Today, the luxury and glamour of the grand hotels is reserved for one of the big events that shake the cultural life of the city: the Mostra de Venecia, the film festival. To celebrate independent cinema, every year, since 1932, the most sparkling stars of celluloid have disembarked on the Lido to take part in the activities of one of the festivals with most tradition in the world. 

The festival, which takes place between the end of August and beginning of September, has been the host to great European directors such as Luis Buñuel, Alain Resnais and Michelangelo Antonioni along with the more recent Hollywood stars, such as Cate Blanchett and Brad Pitt. Its most recognised awards are the Golden Lion for the best film and the Volpi Cup for the best performances by actors.

Taking into account that the Lido is an eminently residential area, there are not many architectural attractions to see. Except for Malamocco, a small village in the southeast that has a lovely campanile built in similar style to that of the Piazza San Marco, the only thing left for you to see are the ruins of the San Nicolò fortress, which in past times controlled access to the lagoon, alongside which was built a church and monastery in the 11th century. You may also find it interesting to visit the Jewish cemetery, which dates from 1386.

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