“Hot times, summer in the city”…remember that great tune by the Lovin' Spoonful?
Here in Venice, summer days can be very hot and humid. When temperatures start to rise, Venetians head for the beaches on the Lido island.
The Lido is a 12 km barrier island between the Adriatic Sea and Venice. The Venice Film Festival, drawing film stars from around the world has been held on the Lido since 1932. But for Venetians, the Lido is most important for its beaches.
It's almost a given that if you go to Lido to the beach you have a rented cabana at one of the private beaches for the summer. A cabana (capanna in Italian) is a hut-like structure of either canvas or wood that is used for storing your bathing suits, suntan lotion, shoes, beach toys, beach chairs, towels, and other assorted necessities of daily beach life. It's not just a storage unit it’s more like a mini-house.
The cabana is the place to enjoy a big mid-day meal with the family of whatever mom and nonna brought along – salads, pasta, sandwiches and fruit. Most cabanas have a small porch equipped with table and chairs, both for eating and shade. You'll see wet bathing suits and towels hung on clothes lines outside the cabanas. There are people sitting and lounging in chairs or on beach towels, talking, sunning, reading, napping. Kids are playing both in the water and out. People are there for the whole day, or just a few hours after work.
Cabana rental can be very expensive, depending on which private beach you are at and also how far back from the water the cabana is. The first row, closest to the water, is most desirable of course, but also most costly. Often a small group of people or extended families will go in on a cabana together to make the cost more affordable. All of the private beaches also provide shower facilities, cafes or small eateries with some shops purveying beach supplies.
Up and down the Lido's entire 12 km stretch of beaches, you will find row after row after row of cabanas. And it's here on Venice's private beaches where you can experience a different side of Venice. Cabana life is a very interesting Venetian sub-culture. Families and/or groups of friends rent the same cabana year after year. It's a daily meeting place for mothers, grandmothers, grandfathers and their children. It's where you head after work. Your bathing suit is already there, all you need to do is pop into the cabana to change.
Several large hotels and also some of the private beaches rent cabanas by the day. If you are in Venice over the summer, consider spending a day there like the Venetians do.
As an alternative, there are also a few public beaches tucked in amongst the private ones. At the end of the main street, Gran Viale Santa Maria Elisabetta which cuts between the lagoon and the sea is the main public beach, easily walkable in just 5 minutes from the vaporetto. Lounge chair and umbrella rental is available daily. At the far end of Lido Alberoni is another public beach, Alberoni, which can be reached by taking the bus from in front of the vaporetto docks.
If you are in Venice over the summer, do as the Venetians do. Spend a day at the Lido!
Karen Henderson and her husband Michael moved to Venice in 2008 to escape the rat race of their hectic American careers. Karen blogs about their transition to expat life and their daily adventures in Venice on her blog, The Venice Experience.
To experience a day at the Lido you might wish to take advantage of the Sensational Suite Offer at the Luna Hotel Baglioni in Venice and indulge in a truly unforgettable stay.