Venice is one of the world’s most popular destinations but where should you head once you have seen its sights and crossed its canals? A true love story with Venice never ends but that doesn’t mean that you can’t stray to one of its neighbouring islands every now and then. Venture out of Venice proper and embark on an island-hopping escape that promises to show you another side to life on the lagoons.
The vaparetto ride from Venice to Lido takes a little over ten minutes and this skinny stretch of sand is the perfect starting point for exploring a handful of the 100 islands that make up the Venice ecosystem. Lido is where the English-meaning of the word originated, a seaside town with the Adriatic Sea on one side and the Venice lagoons on the other. Out of season, this unassuming town is a peaceful and rustic Italian retreat far from the crowds of Venice. In August however, the island receives a glitzy makeover as the red carpet is rolled out to welcome the A-list to the Venice Film Festival, which has been held at the iconic Hotel Excelsior since 1932.
There’s a resort ambience to Lido that is oftentimes missed on the busy streets of Venice and the beaches here are a welcome break from the madding tourist crowd. Lido’s restaurants offer cheaper fayre than that found in Venice itself, with many establishments located along the island’s main thoroughfare, Gran Viale Santa Maria Elisabetta. The Ristorante Parco delle Rose is popular with locals and visitors alike, thanks to a combination of delicious, reasonably prices food and a pretty blossom canopy that shades the al fresco dining room.
Lido’s beaches attracted royalty at the height of the destination’s popularity in the Twenties and plenty remains to entice visitors now. From June to September, the waters that lap this sandy shore are warm enough to swim in, tempting the Venetian’s to escape the city and take a dip. There are canvas-covered cabanas for those willing to pay a price or equally excellent beach space found free of charge in nearby Alberoni.
Just a short way from Lido is an even more authentic example of Venetian life on the lagoons, courtesy of the tiny slither of sand known as Pellestrina. A ride on the number 11 bus, including a very short ferry crossing, will bring you to a place far removed from the packed streets of Venice. Fishing remains a lifeline here; the shores are lined with painted fishing boats and the doorsteps are occupied by fishermen tending to their nets before casting off again tomorrow morning. There is a village ambience to Pellestrina, where children play in the street and women gossip over needlework lace, painstakingly crafting for pleasure rather than for sale. It is perfectly possible to walk the width of the island in as little as 5 minutes in parts, though seeing it by bike is a more popular option than on two feet.
The beaches here are quieter than those found on Lido and you’ll come across quaint seafood restaurants overlooking the water. De Nane and De Celeste are two of the most famous restaurants in Pellestrina, if not in the whole of Venice. Whilst undeniably delicious, the food here isn’t cheap in comparison to other ristorantes on the island. Treat yourself or save your money and your appetite to dine at your next stop of Chioggia instead.
Image Credit: Jean-Pierre Dalbéra
After visiting Pellestrina, the vehicle ferry from Lido transports the number 11 bus to another island -Chioggia. If you’re yearning for the beauty of Venice but desperate to avoid the crowds, your next stop should satiate. Chioggia is much like a mini Venice, complete with canals, bridges and boats, however the pace of life here is much slower than the often frenetic speed of Venice proper. Here, the fish is fresher, the crowds are non-existent and the colourful boats that line the Vena Canal make for a sweet afternoon stroll on all but deserted streets.
Another thing Chioggia has in common with Venice is its architecture. It is here that you will find the cathedral created by Baldassare Longhena before he went on to design the celebrated Santa Maria della Salute, or the ‘Salute’ as one of Venice’s most iconic buildings is better known. Chioggia’s pretty churches are also worthy of a visit, including Chiesa di San Domenico and Chiesa di San Giacomo Apostolo. Make note however that all churches on the island close at lunchtime until late afternoon, so time your visit accordingly. When you tire of historic architecture, cross the bridge to the town of Sottomarina or hire a boat and explore the surrounding lagoons.