The southern lagoon enjoys protection from the Adriatic Sea with shifting sand spits long transformed into a permanent littoral, the residential Lido, with the help of nature and man. The latter’s efforts date back to the 6th century, but the earth and wicker barriers have since been modified into sturdy seawalls and massive parallel breakwaters at the shipping entrances of San Nicolò, Alberoni and Chioggia. On the lagoon’s southwestern edge are fish farms and wild shallows where hunters and fishermen still roam, well clear of the Valle Averto reserve run by the World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF). Closer to Venice itself is a cluster of sizeable islands such as majestic San Giorgio and populous Giudecca, then diminutive land masses such as Lazzaretto Vecchio, where plague victims were once quarantined but which has now been re-adapted as a home for stray dogs, a sanatorium acquired for private development as an exclusive resort, and countless other evocative abandoned places.
Fondazione Giorgio Cini (vaporetto No. 2) • Open 10am–5pm (to 4pm Oct–Apr) Sat & Sun for guided visits (book ahead: 338 683 46 01 or 347 338 64 26) • Adm
The island of cypresses is separated from the main body of Venice by St Mark’s Basin and retains a quiet, meditative air. An ancient vineyard and salt pans were replaced by a landmark church by Andrea Palladio, adjoining an elegant Benedictine monastery. It is now a scientific and cultural foundation and conference centre. At the rear is the open-air Teatro Verde, which is used for performances of contemporary dance and music.
Vaporetto Nos. 2, 4.1, 4.2
An S-shaped slice of land facing the sun-blessed Zattere, this residential garden island was first known as “Spina longa” for its fishbone form. It was renamed either after an early Jewish community or the giudicati (radical aristocrats) exiled here. Italian Renaissance artist Michelangelo spent three peaceful years here in voluntary exile from 1529. Much later it became an important industrial zone with shipbuilding and the immense Molino Stucky flour mill. Usually quiet and neighbourly, it comes to life with a vengeance for the mid-July Redentore festivities (see Festa del Redentore).
Jewish Cemetery: Bus A from S Maria Elisabetta or car ferry from Tronchetto • Guided visits to the cemetery Mar–Oct (book ahead: 041 715 359) • www.museoebraico.it
The northern end of the Lido littoral, a key point in the Republic’s defence, used to be equipped with impressive naval fortifications, and chains would be laid across the lagoon mouth as a deterrent to invaders. The historic Festa della Sensa celebration is held offshore from the church of San Nicolò, founded in 1044 and a former Benedictine monastery, now a study centre. One visitable site is the 1386 Jewish cemetery. Alternatively, take a 35-minute mini cruise on the car ferry between Tronchetto car park and San Nicolò. Its high decks offer great views.
Ferry Nos. 1, 5.1, 5.2, 6, 14
Manicured sand, raked daily, and neat rows of multicoloured bathing cabins and beach umbrellas sum up the Lido from June to September, made famous in Thomas Mann’s novel Death in Venice (see Thomas Mann). Venetians spend their summers socializing in style here. Things liven up considerably for the 10-day International Film Festival in September (see Films in English), when the shady streets are filled with film buffs and critics on bicycles.
Bus No. 11 or line B from S Maria Elisabetta
About midway along the Lido is the pretty, quiet village of Malamocco and it’s now hard to imagine that it was the most important lagoon settlement soon after Roman times and the main port for Padua. A storm and giant waves washed away the entire town in 1106, but it was later rebuilt in the vicinity on a smaller scale. It is appreciated for its 15th-century buildings, peaceful nature and rustic trattorias.
Ferry No. 20 from San Zaccaria • Open 10:45am–2pm Mon–Thu, 3:30–6:30pm Fri, 11:30am–6:30pm Sat & Sun and for guided visits (book ahead: 331 172 87 91) • Adm
In 1648, 200 nuns exiled from Candia, Crete, by the Turks were lodged on this island, but after their numbers dwindled in 1725 it was given over to a sanatorium for psychiatric cases, although exclusively those of “comfortable circumstances”. The roomy buildings are now shared by an international university and a trade school for artisans from all over Europe interested in restoration of stone and stucco techniques.
Ferry line No. 20 from San Zaccaria • 041 526 01 04 • Open 3:20–5pm daily • Adm
Venice made a gift of this erstwhile leper colony to the Armenian monk, the Venerable Mechtar, forced out of the Peloponnese during one of his country’s diasporas. Intent on fostering the Armenian culture and language, he founded a religious community here and set up a printing press that ran until 1994. Multilingual monks instruct visitors in Armenian history and lead tours through a small museum and a library of more than 100,000 volumes and precious illuminated manuscripts.
Close to San Giorgio, this abandoned island used to be a hospice for pilgrims and was named after a miraculous image of the Virgin brought back from Constantinople and attributed to St Luke. Its colourful history features a series of religious orders and churches, devastating fires, allotments, luxuriant gardens and the city’s infectious diseases hospital. It is now private property with no public access.
Bus-ferry No. 11 from the Lido or from Chioggia
This narrow 11-km (6.5-mile) central strip of land, linked to the Lido and Chioggia by ferry, is dotted with picturesque sleepy fishing communities, once famous for lacemaking and now renowned for champion rowers and a shipyard. The Genoese wiped out the villages during the 14th century, an event almost repeated during the disastrous 1966 floods – powerful waves broke over the seawall, forcing full-scale evacuation. The massive defensive barriers with their 14-m (46-ft) broad base were first erected in the 1700s, but have consequently needed large-scale reinforcement.
Ferry from Pellestrina or bus from Piazzale Roma
A lively fishing town, Chioggia has elegant bridges over navigable canals. The friendly inhabitants have a reputation for lawlessness and bickering, and speak a distinctive dialect with a singsong inflection. Chioggia’s greatest moment came as the arena for the decisive battle in the 1378–9 war, when the Genoese came close to conquering Venice. In flat-bottomed boats the crafty locals lured the enemy into the lagoon, thus gaining the upper hand.
Evidence of the Lido’s “golden age” as Europe’s leading seaside resort at the turn of the 20th century can still be seen in the magnificent Art Deco villas. Exemplary survivors are the Hotel des Bains and the Excelsior, built in 1907 as the world’s largest hotel, complete with mock minarets. Before that, the Lido was appreciated for its healthy air.
From the Santa Maria Elisabetta ferry stop, either hire a bicycle or take bus B southwest along the lagoon edge for Malamocco. Wander through the peaceful village and over its bridge to the sea to take in the Adriatic and the impressive seawall. Then proceed with buses B or 11 through Alberoni and past the golf course for the vehicle ferry across the lagoon entrance. Get off at the second stop for San Pietro in Volta. Climb the high seawall for panoramic views of the sea, before turning lagoon-wards for the picturesque pastel-painted fishing settlement that spreads along the waterfront.
Have lunch at one of the trattorias (see Places to Eat) or a sandwich and glass of wine at one of the modest waterfront bars.
Further south the bus terminates at Pellestrina, a brightly painted fishing village flanked by an active shipyard. The passenger ferry to Chioggia is a beautiful half-hour cruise past mussel grounds punctuated with fisher huts perched on poles, via the Ca’ Roman landing stage, which provides access to a beach. Chioggia is a lovely town to explore, with its traffic-free piazza lined with old palazzos and countless fish restaurants.
Indulge in a pre-dinner drink and some cicchetti (bar snacks) at one of the laid-back cafés in the elegant Corso del Popolo.
Gran Viale Santa Maria Elisabetta 16/20, Lido
This stocks unbeatable gourmet food from all over Italy – buffalo mozzarella, creamy Asiago cheese, cured Parma ham and gleaming olives. Pizza and focaccia can be found at the bread counter.
Via Falier, Lido • Tue am
Open-sided vans sell fresh produce, alongside designer-quality clothes, shoes and bags at reasonable prices. Even if you don’t buy anything, the lagoon setting looking over to the Venice skyline makes a trip to this market worthwhile.
Via Negroponte 4/C, Lido
Here you will find a traditional herbalist who can advise on natural remedies for minor ailments.
Gran Viale Santa Maria Elisabetta 10, Lido
The upmarket range of menswear and womenswear at this clothes shop attracts both foreign and Italian customers.
Gran Viale Santa Maria Elisabetta 21/B, Lido
This well-stocked bike shop rents out all normal steeds as well as 4-wheeler family models.
Gran Viale Santa Maria Elisabetta 21/B, Lido
A store with fashionable, moderately priced clothing for all ages is combined with a supermarket with a great selection of fresh produce.
Gran Viale Santa Maria Elisabetta 47/A, Lido
Despite being small, this shop is well-stocked with underwear, nightwear and swimwear.
577 Borgo San Giovanni, Chioggia
Giorgio Boscolo is an expert in crafting traditional fishermen’s clay pipes – and he is the only craftsman who still makes them in terracotta and coloured glazes.
Corso del Popolo 1349, Chioggia
Ignore the trinkets here and instead focus on the intricately hand-crafted models of bragozzo boats.
Stradale Ponte Caneva 626, Chioggia
The dry biscuits sold here were traditionally made for seafarers. Pevarini are spicy rings with molasses and aniseed, while Dolce del Doge is spread with a chocolate-hazelnut mixture.
Calle delle Erbe, Giudecca 268 • 041 522 77 80 • Closed Mon & Tue, Dec & Jan, 10–20 Aug • €€€
Treat yourself to a candlelit dinner on the terrace. Fish dishes such as frittura mista (assorted fried seafood) are the speciality.
Fondamenta Ponte Piccolo Giudecca 320 • 041 528 58 49 • Closed Mon, 15 Dec–15 Jan • €€€
Enjoy hearty Venetian fare such as gnocchi con nero di seppia (potato dumplings with cuttlefish ink) in canal-side seating with lovely views.
Piazzale Malamocco 5, Malamocco • 041 770 834 • Closed Mon dinner, Tue, Jan, Nov • €
The good-value family-run Trattoria Scarso has a lovely garden hung with fishing nets where you can linger over grilled fish or a fresh salad.
Via Francesco Duodo 33, Lido • 041 526 16 26 • Closed Mon • €€
Run by the same family for many years, this exemplary traditional fish restaurant is a firm favourite with both locals and discerning visitors.
Guidecca 10 • 041 240 801 • Closed Nov–Mar • €€€
Savour an artistic tasting menu at Michelin-starred Oro Restaurant, sip a mocktail at Cip’s Club, or have a rustic dinner at Giudecca 10, Hotel Cipriani is the perfect venue for every mood.
Via Portosecco 157, S Pietro in Volta • 041 527 91 25 • Closed Tue, Nov–Mar • €€
Try the fresh shrimps, eel or sole at this modest seafood restaurant with outdoor tables.
Fondamenta S. Biagio, Giudecca 773 • 041 522 48 44 • Closed Nov–Easter • €€€
With views across the Giudecca Canal, this is the “sweet” branch of Harry’s Bar, for sorbets and pastries.
Fondamenta Marangoni 1295, Chioggia • 041 403 232 • Closed Mon, Jan • €
Situated on a quiet canal, this place also has a great selection of meat. Try the zuppa di pesce (fish soup).
Corso del Popolo 653, Chioggia • 041 400 265 • Closed Mon, 15–28 Feb • €€
With a long-standing reputation for excellence, this restaurant serves superb frittura (fried fish), fish risotto and sautéed mussels and clams.
Stradale Ponte Caneva 625, Chioggia • 041 400 861 • Closed Wed • €
A range of delicious fresh grilled fish and fried seafood is available at this spacious, friendly fish restaurant.