The Lido: the Venetian’s beach

It’s hard to believe, walking along the beach of the Lido in winter and seeing it silent and deserted. The only sound is the tide with its successive roll of waves onto the shore.

It has a particular charm, with its long line of closed-up beach huts awaiting the next summer season and broad sand dunes that stand like a wall of defence against the tide’s attack.

Nothing about this sandy coast covered in shells and every kind of relic washed up by the sea, can make one imagine the scene in summer, with beach goers of every age stretched out under the sun or having a swim, and children playing without care in the sand.

The beach of Lido di Venezia has always been the one for the people of Venice.  With the exception of a few rare tourists, it’s Venetian families in their entirety or groups of friends from the city who frequent the seaside establishments there, renting a “capanna” for the summer season.

These are little beach huts, once made of wood, but now almost entirely of plastic, with a veranda and canvas blind closing the front.  It’s fitted out with a table, chairs, a cot, and beach chairs  where Venetians come in the morning to pass away the hot summer days, returning home after sunset.

For someone not from Venice, it’s an unusual scene, which occurs on the first of June, the day the beach establishments open for summer. A vast number of  inhabitants, board the “vaporetti”, the city’s water taxis, and head to the Lido.  They drag with them carts brimming with everything you might need at the seaside: umbrellas, foldable chairs, games for the children, table cloths,  swim fins and more.

You almost feel as if your seeing an entire population in migration. And in some way, you are.

It’s a migration that starts at the beginning of the beach season each year and reverses in the opposite direction in the middle of September, when the seaside establishments close their shutters for the winter.

Venetians pass their days here during the summer, in the same way their predecessors did in the early 1900s. This almost complete transfer of house to the seaside during the day is a rhythm that has been the same for decades.

Early in the morning, the mothers and grandparents bring the children to the beach before it becomes too hot.

Later, the other housewives arrive, after having done the shopping. They often come loaded down with all the food they made that morning at home, bringing everyone something to eat.

Toward midday, many husbands arrive if they can get a long lunch break, returning to work later. Meanwhile, the mothers and small children have already returned home.

Then the beach falls into a silence broken only by a few children’s tears or shouts. It’s the time to rest and think about taking a swim later.

Toward mid afternoon, an ever denser crowd of people begin the bathing ritual, interrupting  the monotony of the long summer afternoon and searching for a way to cool-off during the most sweltering days.

When the sun starts to go down and become more bearable, many bring tables outside from their beach hut and start up interminable games of cards while the children play everything imaginable. This lingers on until it’s time to return home, where an aperitif waits that can’t be missed: a cold glass of prosecco or a Spritz.

This daily ritual, remains the same up to now. It’s the one that one that I remember doing as a child, and in more recent times, with my own children.

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