Monday, September 9, 2013

Castaway Style on the Beach at Lido, or DIY Capanne

A hint of Robinson Crusoe, and perhaps Lina Wertmuller's Swept Away, on Lido
The summer season on Lido officially ended yesterday: le capanne, which people had rented from the end of May, had to be cleaned out and their keys returned. There were, however, still plenty of people on the beach late this afternoon when I visited and, well south of Hotel Excelsior where the jetties begin, a fair number of capanne, too--though of the DIY kind.

These appear regularly every June, made by many anonymous hands of driftwood and vegetation that grows along i murazzi (or sea walls) and other found objects, and occupied by whomever claims them first on any given summer day. I asked (in Italian) an older man I encountered if there was any particular name for these huts.

No, no, he replied in Italian, those structures are not native to Venice--as if I thought there might be a particular Venetian term for them. I actually would have settled for an Italian one, but he said there was none that he knew of. Then he emphasized again that they had nothing to do with Venetian tradition: they didn't originate from the huts of fishermen or anything like that.

"The kids make them each summer," he told me.

"Have they made them for a long time?" I asked.

He shrugged, then reminded me that the jetties themselves had not been there for all that long: only 20 or 30 years. And even the particular sea wall we stood beside had only gone up in the 1960s or '70s.

He thought that there were more huts built in recent years (I saw at least a dozen today, though got nowhere close to most of them because they were occupied and I didn't want to be the kind of guy who lurks around sunbathers with a camera). Then he added that if I wanted to see some really well-constructed ones I should visit Malamoco.

Having grown up in California where huts of this sort wouldn't be allowed to stand for more than a day on one of that state's beaches, much less the entire summer--and well aware of all the regulations on ordinary construction in Venice--I struggled to figure out how to ask in Italian if there were authorities of any sort that objected to these temporary structures. Is there anyone who tears them down at the end of the season? I asked. The police, for example?

No, he said with a slight smile, the sea and winter weather usually take care of that.   

A reservation for the above capanna is perhaps optimistically written on the long plank at the right foreground of the photo: "Capanna prenotata x merc 11 Sett dalle 11 a 21:30 (grigliata)"
This young couple were kind enough to let me photograph the small hut they occupied at the end of a jetty, but not so kind as to vacate it for a couple of minutes while I did so
In addition to sea air and a great view of the Adriatic, this capanna also includes a swing
The plastic ties that bind


  1. Well, you've satisfied my curiosity about these little structures that can be seen along the murazzi, thank you! They're quite inviting, especially the one with the swing.

    1. Da niente, Y. The one with the swing was the least well-constructed of any I saw, using far more man-made materials than any other--but it did have that swing, though!

  2. Aah, I am feeling relaxed just looking at these photos!

    1. That's good to hear! Somehow these rough huts suggests ease to me more than a nicely finished capanna...