Full Day of Exploring the Lido in Venice by Bicycle
If you have only one day to spend in Italy's beautiful Venice, then the main island comprising six sestieri, or districts, that form the historic heart of the city is probably where you'll want to spend your time. In fact, one day may not be adequate. If you have multiple days, however, then a trip to one of the neighbouring islands is a great option for exploring some of the sights that the average tourist neglects. One such island is the Lido, a 7-mile (11.3 km) long sandbar that is home to the annual Venice Film Festival. Lido means "beach" in Italian and lends its name to the Lido deck on cruise ships as well as public swimming pools in Britain, which were likely influenced by tourism to the Lido.
Lido ferry access and bicycle rental
The Lido is well-connected by several ferries with terminals in multiple districts, so whichever one suits your itinerary will do. I grabbed a ferry from just outside the train terminal station on the main island to enjoy a ride down the Grand Canal at a leisurely pace en route to the neighbouring Lido.
Arriving on the island, there were plenty of options for bicycle rentals along the main thoroughfare toward the beach. I went with Bicycle Rental Gardin, who seemed to be the cheapest. €8 (about $10 USD) rented a bike for the whole day. Very reasonable, considering a short ferry ride is roughly the same cost. I needed to leave a form of ID with the shop, which was returned to me when I returned the bicycle.
Touring the island
Tracing the length of both the west and east sides of the island will cover close to 16 miles (25.7 km), but I cycled closer to 30 because every single residential street seemed to be calling out to me with beautiful houses and properties, each one well outside of any budget I'll ever afford in a lifetime. Still, it's fun to peer through the gated drives of old stone and brick homes and pretend for a moment that the flowery entryways and immaculate grounds are your own, and that you're not a random passerby staring longingly into the living quarters of someone who just wanted to leave their front door open for a fresh breeze. Okay, the gates aren't a bad idea.
For me, this is the main draw of touring the Lido on two wheels. Glimpsing orange-roofed communities of pricey real estate and summer villas, exploring quiet roads shaded by mulberry and fig trees, peering down private pathways hedged by roses and jasmine, watching locals pedaling groceries home in their bicycle baskets, and just getting a general idea of what life on a sandbar is like. There's a handful of points of interest, sure, but not the sort that feature on many itineraries, even if some of them should.
Cycling on the Lido is very easy as it's incredibly flat and traffic is minimal. Pedaling in any direction that looks interesting was my method of exploring, not least because I had no map and no phone. The island is so narrow that you can't really get lost as long as you keep a sense of north and south. There's a few places that are especially worth checking out. One is Malamocco, the first settlement to be established on the island and the original home of the Doge of Venice. The small village is encircled by a canal on three sides and the Venetian Lagoon on another. A small bridge, Ponte del Borgo, hops the canal on the eastern side where an arch neatly frames the entrance to the village.
A walk through the village will reveal several restaurants, bed and breakfasts, a post office, and a small church. The absence of people in my photos is not the work of Photoshop trickery; I neither saw nor heard a single soul. There were plenty of signs of life though in the form of freshly-watered flowers on window sills, wet laundry hung out to dry, and bicycles – the only vehicle allowed through the village gates – parked in alleyways.
The local parish church of Santa Maria Assunta, which dates back to the 12th century but features some newer modifications, claims the tallest point in the village with its prominent bell tower. The tower holds four bells in the chord of F major and exhibits an appearance obviously inspired by that of St Mark's Campanile.
The crumbling bricks and peeling stucco of Malamocco's buildings create an aged charm that is well-suited to photography. There were enough photo opportunities to busy me for a while and I would have stayed much longer if I wasn't thinking about returning the bicycle by evening.
South of Malamocco, the road and pedestrian path hugs the west bank of the island with a nice view of the lagoon running parallel. Following it to the southern tip, you'll find the Circolo Golf Venezia golf course, remains of the defensive Rocchetta Battery, and the Alberoni Dam Lighthouse. The golf course was very accessible and effortless to walk into, so I assumed it was public. Turns out, it's very much private, and they definitely don't appreciate people laying on the green while trying to get perfect low-angle golf stock photos. I was fortunate not to get clubbed on the way out.
To the north end of the Lido there's the San Nicolo Beach and Blue Moon Beach, both free to access. Blue Moon certainly lived up to its name as I saw more than one human moon (and I'm pretty sure it's a family beach). On the northeasternmost tip you'll eventually arrive at the San Nicolo Lighthouse, located at the end of a dam more than a mile in length. It's a cute red lighthouse, not a bad spot for photos.
I found the southern portion of the island to be more interesting, because much of the northern end is occupied by an airport. However, there were still some good sights to be had along the northwest bank looking across the lagoon. With a telephoto lens, distant landmarks on the neighboring islands can be brought into view with the Dolomites section of the alps making the perfect backdrop. For my crop sensor camera, 300mm was the ideal focal length for those sights.
With the wheels returned to the bike shop, a walk along the Lido's expansive beachfront is a good way to readjust to movement on two feet while bringing a relaxing end to the day. The many jetties dotting the coastline offer ample vantage points to enjoy the sunset, and, as I did, meet and chat with another traveler until the daylight is spent. The jetties also offer a good opportunity for photos with a vanishing point, the perfect background for all those Pinterest travel pins with terrible advice copy/pasted on them.
I clocked up about 7 hours of cycling on the Lido, but everything I do tends to take twice as long when my camera is with me, and I did stop many times for photos and various points of interest. There was also the 1 kilo bag of cookies in my bicycle basket slowing me down (I was trying to regain lost weight). You could just as easily cover the island in a few hours, or ten. It's all up to your own style.