The Lido Island Reserve is known for its beaches and hosting the Venice Film Festival. But, even in the off-season, it offers a special atmosphere and hidden corners to discover for anyone looking for something different and off the major tourist routes.
It is an island to “savour”, searching out the small things it almost jealously hides away, without expecting any major excitement. However, it also often offers even this when nature goes wild and the stormy sky blurs into the rough sea.
It’s an amazing mixture of past and present. For example, one remembers that around the church of San Niccolò and its cloisters, the crusaders camped in 1202 while waiting to leave for the Holy Land during the Fourth Crusade. Centuries later, just a few steps away, Venice’s first airport was built, staying in operation until 1961 when the current one opened.
The island owes its development to the foresight of an entrepreneur, Niccolò Spada, who wanted to build a large hotel on the sea, one like the famous French ones of the 1900s. He inaugurated his Hotel Excelsior in 1911.
Starting off at the Grand Avenue, the main road that crosses the island from East to West, you can lose yourself in the small side streets which bear the names of the past glories of “La Serenissima”, as Venice is often called — names like “Famagusta”, “Cipro” (Cyprus), “Zara” and “Morea”. There, you can admire so-called Art Nouveau or Liberty architecture from the late 1800s and early 1900s. By then, the Lido had become a trendy location and anyone who could build a summer villa there did. After a walk along the beach, you can stop to admire the Moorish style Hotel Excelsior which began the island’s development.
Even in autumn and winter, the beach has a special charm. The bathing establishments are all closed and the beach is almost deserted, except for a few residents taking a stroll or giving their dog a run.
It’s a slightly decadent charm reminiscent of Thomas Mann’s “Death in Venice”, which was largely set in the Lido at the turn of the century.
Much history and many events in Venice are connected to the islands that surround it or are scattered in its lagoon, including the Lido.
These islands are so important that in the first half of 1700s, the Venetian Republic undertook an important defensive project around them, the “murazzi“, in which it built a large dike made of stone blocks from the Dalmatian coast. These served to defend the lower portion of the Venetian coastline from the fury of the sea as well as Venice itself. This defence continues its work today. You can admire it by taking a long walk to the ancient little village of Malamocco. There you can still feel the atmosphere of a bygone age with its slow rhythms marked by the seasons.
Taking only a 10-minute vaporetto from from Piazza San Marco, you can get to this part of Venice. It’s away from the large tourist flows and immersed in an unexpected landscape which can be discovered by walking or cycling.