Discovering the Hidden Gem of Lido di Jesolo
A short drive or public transport journey can often take you from a crowded holiday hotspot to a new gem, as our writer discovers within an hour of Venice. Lido di Jesolo is the resort in question, and the bus journey from Venice, even with its route making a stop at Marco Polo Airport, takes just over an hour.
As I board the bus at Piazzale Roma at the top of the Grand Canal, carrying my small overnight bag, I am feeling excited. Why? Because this is a nostalgic journey, taking me back to my childhood when, at the age of eight, my parents loaded me into the car at home in Co Derry, my father pointed the vehicle in the direction of Italy, and off we went on a great summer adventure.
Journey’s end was a campsite on the edge of Jesolo and, from what I can remember, a great time was had and my parents vowed we’d go back another time. We never did.
Now here I am, more than half a century later, on a journey I am hoping will transport me back to my childhood.
I’m not really sure what I expect of Lido di Jesolo in 2023. I sit on the bus, sizing up the mixed bag of other passengers travelling with me — three families with young children (two French, one British) who boarded at the airport, a group of five teenage girls who got on in Venice and seem to be on a day trip, a well-dressed older gentleman complete with Panama hat, and lots of middle-aged Italian women who are probably either returning home to Jesolo, or on their way there to visit friends.
I try to recall what I can of the town back in the 1960s, but all I really remember is the beach — a magnificent 15km stretch of sand running along the edge of the Adriatic. I imagine that won’t have changed, but the rest of the town? Being honest, I’m anticipating a slightly down-at-heel, tacky seaside resort with a kind of ‘kiss me quick’ Venetian Riviera vibe. I am about to be proved wrong.
A few days earlier, I booked a room in the three-star Hotel Orizzonte, which faces right on to the beach. Talk about a spot-on, random choice: lovely staff, a comfortable, no-frills room that even has a large balcony with a side view of the sea, access to my own sunbed in the Orizzonte’s ‘section’ on the beach, and a delicious breakfast the following morning. All for €70 in the month of May.
A 10-minute stroll from the bus station sees me check in to the hotel and then out I go, ready to explore.
First impressions? Immediately behind the pedestrian pathway that runs along the back of the beach, hotels face out to sea. One after another and ranging from three to five-star, all with their own perfectly arranged sunbeds and meticulously raked sand. For as far as the eye can see, there are sunbeds, and while this kind of set-up would normally be my worst holiday nightmare, I find that the utter spotlessness and sense of order, coupled with the fact that it’s still early in the season and not heaving with holidaymakers, helps contribute to the feeling that I have stumbled upon a gem of a place.
There are, of course, a few standard seaside shops selling beach balls, swimming togs and so on, and some ‘market’-style clothes outlets (I carry home a lovely white shirt for €20). But when it comes to most of the cafes, the fashion shops (some very pricey), and the restaurants, Lido di Jesolo is definitely more chic than I was expecting; there’s now a distinct Riviera feel to the town that also manages to convey a sense of wellbeing.
About three hours after I arrive, I realise that I am really enjoying it. It’s not just the nostalgia — I am genuinely happy to be in this seaside town, and to be staying overnight. So glad, in fact, that were it not for a planned public transport strike the next day, I would book another night.
That evening, after dining in a restaurant recommended by an Italian friend and packed with locals, I wander back to my hotel through the darkening streets, feeling sad to be leaving the following day.
It might have taken me more than 50 years to return to Lido di Jesolo, but next year I’m going back.
Fly from Dublin to Venice Marco Polo airport with either Ryanair or Aer Lingus. The 10A bus from Marco Polo runs every hour to Lido di Jesolo (40-minute journey) and costs €14.40 return.
High-season rates for a double room including breakfast at Hotel Orizzonte from around €200.
Check out Topflight for package holidays to Lido di Jesolo.
Three off-radar resorts
Tavira, Algarve, Portugal
Not so much a beach resort as a close-to-beaches resort, Tavira itself is one of the gems of the Algarve. With its cobbled streets, lovely churches, riverside walks and artisan shops, mass tourism has largely passed it by. With accommodation and restaurants aplenty, Tavira is the genuine article — and with stunning beaches like Tavira Island right on its doorstep. Faro is 45 minutes away.
Conil de la Frontera, Spain
One of the white towns of Andalucia, Conil lies south of Cadiz on the Costa de la Luz. With both an old and new town, lovely sandy beaches and the crystal-clear water of the Atlantic, it’s a perfect spot for all age groups. A popular destination for Spanish holidaymakers, it has a great choice of accommodation (including camping facilities) and restaurants. Seville is 90 minutes away.
An understated seaside town on the north-west coast of the island which retains its authentic Greek atmosphere, Kissamos-Kastelli comes with its own beach (and others nearby), a pleasant town square, an archaeological museum and a plethora of seaside tavernas serving delicious fish and overlooking the beautiful bay. It’s a laid-back, relaxing resort rather than party central, and famous for its brandy-like red wine. Chania is 40 minutes away.