The quieter side of Venice
Venice. Picture: Peter Lynch

It's a study in Venetian contrasts: here, masses of tourists have shoved and pushed their way across San Marco Square. But over there - a 10-minute boat taxi ride - it's much quieter.

More Venice:
VENICE ON A BUDGET
EUROPE'S RAIL TRAIL

There is the Lido de Venezia, the long, slender island across the lagoon from the centre of Venice, where for a long time it held little significance and was only thinly inhabited.

But then, in the second half of the 19th century, the attractiveness of the narrow island was discovered. On the beaches, bathing facilities emerged, claimed to be the first of their kind in Europe. Soon the Lido - the Italian word for beach - became a glamorous bathing resort.

The Lido differs from the rest of Venice in another major aspect - there are cars on the roads. This does not mean there is a traffic chaos like in Rome. Instead, many people get around by bicycle, an especially appealing alternative for visitors. Simply rent a bike and go pedalling around to explore the island.

Far removed from the main road, at the Gran Viale Santa Maria Elisabetta, where many boutiques, restaurants, bars and hotels are lined up, one is immersed in a more relaxed everyday routine.

Along the narrow canals of the island, the boats of the residents are puttering along, and children and adults gather in the squares. Common apartment buildings are mainly to be seen, although there are some sumptuous villas hidden behind tall hedgerows and trees.

In fact, luxury is the Lido's real style. The Grand Hotel des Bains was the setting for Thomas Mann's classic novella A Death in Venice. It was closed down two years ago and converted into an apartment complex, so now the ornately decorated Grand Hotel Excelsior is the most luxurious address on the Lido.

About 80 years ago the first Venice Film Festival was held in the hotel. Now the annual film fest is staged in the Palazzo del Cinema nearby, but to this day Hollywood stars like George Clooney spend their late-summer days in the Excelsior.

It is much quieter not only in the southernmost tip of the island, but also in the town of Alberoni. Very few tourists find their way here - yet they can enjoy a unique perspective while sitting in one of the few cafes and restaurants.

Over there, across the lagoon, is Venice's main island. The bell-tower of San Marcos Square rises up as the city's most striking trademark. And even though it is not all that distant, the hustle-and-bustle of the masses of tourists seems to be far, far away.

The West Australian

Popular videos

Compare & Save

Our Picks

Follow Us

More from The West