An evening flight home, so how do you fill a day without having to carry your bags?
We decided on left luggage – not cheap but worth the 7E. The crowds were not for us so more expenditure, as if Venice could involve anything else, but 20 E each on a freedom pass to local transport, water bus or land bus though unfortunately not to the airport, and we could go wherever we wished.
Our friends were staying on the Lido. We had seen them the day before and wished to leave them in peace but the Lido is big enough for that. The ride is along the Grand Canal with all the tourist views you may desire, stopping at San Marco, the Arsenal, Giardini and then across the Lagoon. Anything but “Death in Venice” as we arrived in brilliant weather with a restaurant right on the waterfront.
A quick look at the menu told it was no cheaper than anywhere else, but a glance at more basic places showed it scarcely more expensive. So that was where we went, and a good choice it turned out to be. There’s never any problem with ordering only one course: we had fritto misto di mare, which can be a bunch of gluey calamari rings and a prawn or two, but this wasn’t. There were calamari, but crisply fried in a tempura batter, with several small octopus and king prawns that were delicious. No rush: we could sit for as long as we wished. The wine, once I’d explained a half not a whole bottle, was refreshing too.
People at other tables were also choosing to eat simply and receiving excellent service with food that looked delicious too.. Add the distant view of San Marco and San Giorgio Maggiore and there was little more to desire.
The Lido has all the slow charm of a dreamy Edwardian seaside resort where the sun last shone in England. A whole array of writers, composers and artists can be imagined there: not only Thomas Mann, but Rattigan, Britten, Bridget Riley and Howard Hodgkin, even John Osborne in a good mood.
We walked along the straight Gran Via that leads to the beach, no great distance but not to be hurried when the temperature is approaching 30. The public beach has all the cheap eating, drinking and amusement options of any beach but also showers, towel hire and a clean and tidy aspect. It is obviously very popular with all ages.
A bus back was possible, except the stops had been moved and by the time we found one we’d walked more than half the way. The young mother and daughter we’d seen in the restaurant passed in the opposite direction. We only had to choose our route back.
Giardini had been intriguing, so we decided to go there. Unfortunately it isn’t the kind of garden we had in mind, just some trees and patches of grass with a few shrubs. The architecture biennale was taking up most of the space; had it been the art we might have investigated but our aim was really to see more of Venice than we had before. So on to Giuddecca.
The guidebook says it may have been named after the Jews who once lived there, or the aristocrats before their reputation forced them to seek other locations. Lately it has been industrial, with a big mill now converted into a Hilton Hotel – very expensive if the rueful comment overheard from one American is any guide. It has some pleasant areas for sitting outside but the bank balance would not have supported us for long. Instead we found a small bar where a half litre of white wine was just a few Euros and a snack meal could be had before we thought about going to the airport.
Time enough for more rides on the boats, however. The one we chose was not the most picturesque but at least showed there are other sides to Venice. These are industrial and mercantile, and include fishing. We saw the commercial docks, with a couple of cruise ships moored beyond where they can cause problems, the back of the station and bus terminal, then boats including gondolas working the water beyond Venice. We could have gone on to Burano but time was running out, so we took the reverse route back to Piazzale Roma.
At odd times a boat had been busy but we’d never been crowded. The water was always refreshing and we’d seen Venice as the locals do. For less than the price of three single journeys it was well worth while.