The Venice Lido Reborn
A vast cash injection has breathed new life into Venice's iconic LidoFeatured August 11 Words by Robin Saikia
All is well on the Lido once more. The legendary Tony Micelotta makes the best martinis in Europe at the Excelsior's Blue Bar. The sunsets admired by Byron and Shelley are undimmed. Every evening the sky blazes crimson and the lagoon is flecked with green, pink and gold. Italian families are back, hiring cabins on the beaches - or sunloungers with candy-striped ombrellone at the Blue Moon complex. Prosecco, seafood and ice cream sell well at bars like La Rotonda.
You may not think of Venice as a seaside destination, but after a multi-million pound facelift, which was completed this month, the dolce vita is back on the city's once-famed beach. The Lido has had a tough time lately. Historically important as the sea boundary of Venice, it found new life in the 19th century as a place of striking natural beauty, praised by writers including Byron and Ruskin. In the 20th century, the entrepreneurs Nicolò Spada and Giuseppe Volpi built the grand hotels and founded the Venice Film Festival. The Lido soon outshone the French Riviera, with Winston Churchill, Marlene Dietrich and Coco Chanel among the glittering guests at the Excelsior and the Hotel des Bains. Sadly, the post-war years saw a steady decline. Investors decamped and even Luchino Visconti's film of the Thomas Mann novel Death in Venice could not save the Lido.
In 2009, EstCapital, a real estate fund, announced a widely publicised €113m lifeline. "In a few years, we will completely change the face of the Lido," said Gianfranco Mossetto of Est."The fog that obscures it now will lift." The big idea - to revive old glories for the modern age - seems to be working. The spring-cleaned beaches now fly the coveted Blue Flag and you'll find the free public beaches at both the southern and northern tips of the Lido. The north, in particular, is pleasingly lively, with dancing at Aurora Beach and Blue Moon. And if you head further north still, towards San Nicolò, the shoreline becomes wilder and even more romantic in the warm Adriatic dusk. Alberoni, at the southern tip of the Lido, is a conservation area, with rare plants, birds and the pine forest where Byron loved to ride. Lounging in the sun, dining and dancing, an energetic timetable of tennis, riding, sailing, canoeing or golf - it's all here, just as it was in the 1930s, and only minutes from the world's most beguiling city.