Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Life's a Beach at 'The Lido'

Having visited Venice only a year ago, Jules and I were keen to venture a little wider in our exploration of the island as well as other popular spots close by across the water. On our previous trip we had skirted a number of intriguing looking islands on the way from the airport and were keen to take a closer look this time around. One such place was Lido (more often referred to as ‘The Lido’), the largest of the islands that surround the main island of Venice and one that is so easily accessible by Vaperetto (local waterbus). The island itself is actually a very long thin sandbar that acts like a protective buffer between Venice and the Adriatic Sea, but over the years it has grown into a substantial town that has forged it’s own unique identity. So in mid-August and with 35+ degree temperatures, it didn’t take too much to convince us that a trip on the water to what is essentially a beach resort, would be a very good idea.

After a short boat trip we walked through the most modern Vaperetto Terminal in the Venice area to step into a world that was substantially different than the place we had departed from. No longer were there old crumbling buildings and narrow canals, but rather well kept homes, wide streets and cars! This might not seem particularly unusual, but when you compare it to Venice it was. While traffic had been imported via the ferry from the mainland, it seemed that the preferred mode of transport here was actually bicycles. This gave the town a nice relaxed feel, as they were clearly suited to an island of this size. We however, chose to use foot-power to make our way across to the opposite side of the island to inspect its celebrated white sandy beach (quite unusual for Europe). Here swimming and sunbathing had been taken to a highly organized and business-like level, reminiscent of the shores of Positano. While neat rows of colour matched umbrellas and sunbeds lined one side of the beach, the other side had rows of huts of varying sizes and luxury that were all available for hire. This was totally different from the laise-fare style of beach bathing we were used to in Australia. Obviously Italian sun worshippers were not merely satisfied with the clear waters and sandy beaches, but also desired resort style creature comforts to accompany them and were more than happy to pay for the privilege.

While the water was certainly tempting, we decided to bypass the beach in an effort to seek out one of Venice’s hidden secrets … The Lido Market. Jules had on a previous day asked a local whether there was a regular street market in Venice, only to be assured that there was none to be found. However, this didn’t deter her and she eventually discovered that Lido was the place to go. So after a bit of searching we finally managed to find it on the north-western bank of the island, set quite a distance away from the main part of the town. It was almost as if its location and the lack of information about the market was a cunning ploy to keep the tourists at bay, as there seemed to be very few foreigners to be found. Yet, what they were missing was one of the biggest and best street markets Jules and I had ever seen in Europe. The location was so picturesque and it had a terrific atmosphere, with excited locals stocking shopping bags full with all manner of produce and goods. We too picked up a few things, but in the end we simply couldn’t resist the smell of the spit-roasted chickens. So when the market was all but over, we sat contentedly on the bank that faced back toward Venice happily devouring our chicken accompanied with fresh baked bread … hard to imagine a better lunch!

As we headed away back toward the town, we couldn’t help but notice some of the impressive villas set back from the streets. Lido was certainly a grand old town and it reminded us very much of some of the places we had visited along the French Riviera. Not surprisingly it is often referred to as ‘The Golden Island’ and has over the years developed into a much preferred holiday spot for those who are happy to remain at arms length from the crowds and commercialism of central Venice. It does however attract it’s own audience toward the end of August when film buffs invade Lido for the annual Venice Film Festival, which remains the longest running and one of the most prestigious in the world. In a couple of weeks the festivities would all start again with George Clooney in town to launch his latest movie, so no doubt Jules would have liked to have stayed a whole lot longer!

Lido had proved to be quite a surprise in many ways; such a contrast to the familiar scenes of Venice, to be found just a kilometer or so across the water. We thought that if we ever returned to this part of the world again we would certainly consider staying here, as it seemed to offer something just that little bit different. Enjoying yet another day of glorious summer weather, it had certainly been the perfect place to spend our last full day in Italy and it had provided us with yet another truly memorable experience. It is not surprising that the term ‘Lido’ had become a byword for the relaxed lifestyle of a watery resort, but as Jules and I found out, it turns out ‘The Lido’ is a whole lot more than that!

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