Skip Venice; Explore the Lido for Your Italian Getaway

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With less water you'd swear you were in Las Vegas (in more ways than one)
With less water you’d swear you were in Las Vegas (in more ways than one)

Many who visit Italy are captivated by the history, architecture, geography, abundant seafood, and slower pace.  My trip to Venice left me wondering why anyone would want to live there. Don’t get me wrong — it was a great four days — but the constant hive of tourists that infest Venice would make living there annoying.

Venice is a World Heritage site, and rightly so. Without cars, it’s all walking, all the time, which I love.  It’s vastly beautiful with secret treasure views around every corner.  The further away from Saint Mark’s Square you get, the more non-English speaking real Italy you get.

However it’s a small island and tourists are everywhere, all armed with a bucket list of pictures to take. Even a seemingly uninhabited alleyway is soon interrupted.  Cruise ships disgorge their thousands, airports supply their daily throngs.  Gorgeous but far from peaceful.

How Touristy? I probably waited ten minutes to get a picture of a tourist-free bridge which lasted seconds.
How Touristy? I probably waited 10 minutes to get this picture of an empty bridge. An emptiness that lasted seconds.

It rained a bit during my stay, which brought out umbrellas at garrote-height, taking aim at my neck.  I’m also a quick walker and the tourist-shuffle speed was tiring.

Imagine living in Las Vegas or Six Flags … all the time.  That’s Venice (only completely beautiful).

However all is not lost.  There is the Lido.

A short boat ride from Venice, Lido de Venezia is one of the barrier islands protecting Venice from the Adriatic Sea. It’s a beach town with the universal vibe only a beach town can have.  In the off-season it’s a sleepy village recharging its batteries with few tourists wandering up the main shopping street. In high season, it’s a celebration.  In Venice, there is no off season to recharge.

In the rain, the world-famous Excelsior looked abandoned
In the rain, the world-famous Excelsior looked abandoned

My Lido visit was on the trailing edge of rain.  Set against a driving rain, at first the sea had that ominous feel of an aging black-grey battleship against the night sky. As I walked along the beach I saw what appeared to be a hulking abandoned building.  Only standing in front (still in the rain) did I realize it was the classic and refined Excelsior Hotel.  I stopped for a drink (of course!).

As the rain clears, majesty returns.
As the rain clears, majesty returns. That’s beach town living.

After a languishing (and dry) cocktail, the sun came out and the world changed.  The sea returned to its living palate of dark emeralds with whitecap occlusions.  It’s always surprising to see how much a view can change in a few short minutes.

With the sun out, it was time to look at property!

All the Italian style you need; “Romeo, Romeo ...”
All the Italian style you need; “Romeo, Romeo …”

The Lido has many of these older multi-story buildings that are great for full- and part-time residents.  The trick I learned is that in these buildings you want to floor below the top.  It offers the views you want without the wonky ceilings often found in these low-roofed, converted attics or servants quarters.  Bonking your head getting out of bed, using the bathroom or even cooking a meal is too high a price to pay to be one floor up.

For a concussion, opt for a low-ceiling
For a concussion, opt for a low-ceilinged top floor

Because buildings are older, condos without the benefit of floor-to-ceiling windows may also be dark.  Back in the day, windows were costly and there was less of an obsession with ocean views.

Speaking of views, unless you’ve got bucks, forget the ocean or Venice views that are at least triple the price of a waterless view.  Settle for sea air and a nice patio or garden space where you can get condos for under $300 a square foot.

You'll almost certainly want to renovate
You’ll almost certainly want to renovate

Renovation is also something to seriously consider.  A lot of the properties are full of decades-old bad Italian chic with tiny kitchens and horrifically tiled bathrooms (and yes, there’s ALWAYS a bidet in Italy).  You’ll need to sharpen your pencil to see if buying a more scarce renovated property is the way to go.  Lugging everything you need (likely including labor) in by boat can get pricey as well as complicated.

TIP: In Italy, the kitchen is often considered furniture that’s owned (and removed) by the seller.  This is a good news / bad news story, depending on if you like the existing kitchen or not. More modern properties have built-in kitchens … ASK.

Remember, it's not YOUR furniture.
Remember, it’s not YOUR furniture.

More than many places, buyers really have to close their eyes to the seller’s décor.  Italy is one of those cultures that never found the “top” in “over the top.”

Buying property

Buying property in Italy is fairly straight-forward.  Like many other places, there is no MLS centralizing listings so a buyer either needs help or stamina.  Buyers will need a real estate lawyer to handle much of the paperwork.  Instead of a title company, there is the notary who performs title searches, presents buyers with their deeds and alerts the tax office and land registry.  Oddly (but conveniently) the notary also transfers utilities into the buyer’s name and alerts the local police of the ownership change.

From a tax perspective, there is the registration tax (3 to 7 percent depending on ownership), a VAT ranging from 4 to 22 percent (depending on the type of property) and a 1 percent land registry tax.  Various fees are paid to the notary and lawyer.  Interestingly, the real estate agent’s fee is paid both by the buyer and seller and can be nose-bleed for the buyers of luxury investment property as a foreign buyer.

Of course there are property taxes paid twice a year, similar to Texas.

In the end, like my thoughts on Bermuda, if I returned to the Lido, I’d rent.  It’s a perfect location near enough to the bustle of Venice without being in a tourist nest full-time. And I do like me some beach!  Renting also removes a lot of hassle and cost on a property you’re unlikely to live in full-time.  Were I to decide to retire here, then I’d buy, if for no other reason than to renovate a home to my taste.

Remember: Do you have a location you’d like to see featured?  I travel quite a bit and enjoy poking around real estate.  Realtors, have clients who’d like to document their second home journey?  Shoot Jon an email. Marriage proposals accepted (they’re legal)!

Reader Interactions


  1. Karen Eubank says

    The Lido is fantastic. The boat ride to Venice from the Lido is “the” image you see on all the postcards. So many folks miss this and wonder why they never saw this particular view!