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The Lido: Famous for an Erotic Novel and Kidnapped Crusaders   
by Bob Bruno

The Lido is a narrow sandbar approximately 15 km long and 2km wide which virtually separates the eastern side of the Venetian lagoon from the Adriatic Sea. It has been formed by the tidal accumulation of sand and silt and so not unsurprisingly is largely covered by sandy beaches making it a popular destination for tourists. Most of the beaches are owned by the hotels lining the Adriatic coast and so are exclusively reserved for the use of their guests although two large public beaches are situated on the northern and southern tips of the island.

The Lido is famous as the setting for the novel Death in Venice: Thomas Mann's famous tale of homosexual infatuation. An elderly novelist develops a crush on an adolescent boy while holidaying on the Lido. Despite an outbreak of cholera in nearby Venice he is so fascinated by the boy that he can not leave. Having spent his entire lifetime denying his own sexuality, the old man is finally confronted with the truth about himself only to become infected and die on the beach as he finally makes eye contact with the unattainable object of his affections.

The Lido is intersected by the Viale di Santa Maria Elisabeth: a broad avenue barely 2 kilometres long which connects the side of the island facing Venice and the beaches lining the Adriatic coast. The commercial heart of the Lido, where the fashionable shops, restaurants and bars are located, is centred upon this avenue. Venice is barely a kilometre from its western end and ferries depart from this point for St.Marks Square, the mainland and the airport.

The Lido has an interesting past. In 1202, an army of crusaders were left stranded on the sandbank by the Venetian navy after they had failed to pay the sum requested for their transportation to the Holy Land. The wily doge Enrico Dandolo had made a grand show of joining the crusade, encouraging the army to assemble and set sail from Venice, but had then increased the price required for his support leaving his allies with no alternative but to attack one of Venice's rivals, the port of Zara in Dalmatia, in order to raise the necessary additional funds.

Dandolo was also instrumental in persuading the crusaders to attack the Christian city of Constantinople en route to the Holy Land. Many of the marbles, columns and friezes which now decorate the exterior of St. Mark's Cathedral and the palazzi which line the Grand Canal were plundered during the sacking of this city.

 

About the Author

Bob Bruno is a frequent visitor to Venice and a regular contributor to the Venice Sights Blog at http://www.venice-sights.co.uk

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