A walk along Riviera San Nicolò
Not sure you can understand how happy I am that spring has finally arrived in Venice and the lagoon and that we can all put our winter jackets away at least until next November. Yes, there may still be a few clouds in the sky, but the temperature has risen and I can already recognise that very unique dampness so typical of my city (in fact, if Venice is a fish Venetians may well be considered amphibious).
So, what do locals do when the sun shines and the weather is hot? The answers are mainly two: 1) wander around the lagoon by boat or, 2) go to an island to get tanned and chill out. Not having a boat, I opted for the second and today I'm taking you to Lido (again), precisely for a walk along Riviera San Nicolò.
I think I have already mentioned that one of the reasons I'm called Nicoletta is because I was born in this area, in the former Ospedale al Mare, today partly abandoned and partly still used for rehabilitation therapies (if you are curious to see what remains of the hospital, I suggest watching this video). Lido is one of those places where changes happen gradually and over a long time, in fact compared to central Venice it's still incredibly calm and quiet and definitely free from mass tourism. In its extreme simplicity, if you ask me, this island has it all: the beach, the bicycles, the bars and restaurants and pizzerias and -most importantly- the perfect atmosphere. I like to recommend a visit to all those who love nature and enjoy slow-paced days.
Anyway, going back to us, when I got off from the vaporetto at Piazzale Santa Maria Elisabetta I turned left and walked straight on. I really enjoy this walk, especially because on my left I see Venice and other islands (and after a rainy day, when the sky is clear, you can even see the mountains in the far background!) while on my right I see all the traces of a normal life and small details that recall Venice. Once passed the Tempio Votivo, the construction of which started in 1925, you will see the charitable institution where I used to play as a child, followed by lovely houses, bridges and canals.
Please take the time to look at the different villas, now restored but still showcasing architectural elements like columns, gothic arches and bas-relieves depicting the Saint Mark's lion, baby angels and other stylised animals and figures. So elegant and refined they make me dream of a comfortable and easy life, involving very little stress. The red benches along the way were tempting me to stop, but I just kept walking on and on until I passed in front of Odone Parmeggiani, my ex elementary school named after a partisan, the Jewish cemetery then and finally the building that once was the national seat of archery competitions.
If you have time, visit the Jewish cemetery. It is forbidden to take pictures (or, anyway, you may need a special permission so have a look at their website for more info), but the experience is incredible. It's a place where life and death entertain an ongoing dialogue, simply magical, with particular tombs that describe the history and taste of important Jewish families. The garden is well kept, but obviously there are no flowers on the tombs, but small stones or written notes. Differently from most Jewish cemeteries, here in Lido some tombs are actually quite monumental and it is incredibly interesting to dig further!
Once you re-start your walk along the Riviera, you will pass in front of the Ferry stop and finally cross the San Nicolò bridge, so long and strange, it almost seems stretched. From the top you can see the island of Sant'Andrea in front of you, while on your right you'll see the Nicelli airport first and the San Nicolò Church. By the way, not many people know that in the convent there is the seat of EIUC university, the global campus of human rights where university and phd students from all over the world contribute to making our world a better place (thank you so much guys!!!).
Anyway, the Church is annexed to a convent and a cloister and when I was a child I used to go there with my father to buy their free range eggs. I don't think it's still possible (not sure...), but I have some lovely memories of those days. This was also the church where I had my first confession, but probably you'd prefer to know that it's the place where every year the rite of The Marriage of the Sea is celebrated!
At this point, there is nothing left for me to do than suggest to take your time, relax, find a nice bench where you can curl up with a book and enjoy the view of the lagoon and of all the beautiful flowers. Proceeding you will notice the seat of the Carabinieri and also the pier reserved to the Lagunari, the amphibious troops of the Italian army (Vito was one once! In Italy, in fact, military service was mandatory for all the boys born before 1985). Don't forget to peep inside the Corte dell'Arco, on the Church's left, a tiny courtyard identical to the ones in Venice!
I just sat and read my book for a while, I even managed to get a little tan and see all my freckles coming out, then I slowly walked back to the centre and had a little something to eat at my usual spot, which you'll surely know by now: Bio Sound System. Being on my own I didn't have a full lunch, but just some bruschettas with tomatoes and extra virgin olive oil. How lovely, just three ingredients for a super tasty bite (4 when I make it at home because I add fresh garlic).
From the centre you can decide to go to the beach, explore the other side of the island or hop on a vaporetto and go back to Venice. I'm sure you will adore this little island too and if you visit during the summer, consider that at the weekend central Venice get over-over-over-crowded, thus it's a good idea to go to an island during the day and return after 5/6 pm.
Thanks for reading, a presto!!!