Let’s dive back into the black and white photos of the Lido of Venice while we wait for this year’s Venice Film Festival

Venice – What refined footwear, what elegant bare backs, and what pushes, shoves, and crowds as well! If only the sand of the Lido of Venice could talk! The water that touches its shores is the same that brushed the feet of fully dressed women in the late 19th Century, and the same that splashed on Brigitte Bardot’s curves and Paul Newman’s abs not many years later. So many things this beach has seen, so many it sees today and so many it still has to see!

We are inching towards the end of August but it’s still full Summer at the Lido. The beach huts are filled with families: moms, dads and children running everywhere, while older kids hang out and flirt in the nooks and crannies of the beach. Whether in color or in black and white − visited by locals, “foresti” (outsiders, tourists) or VIPs −,  the beach that goes from the Excelsior palace to the (now) ex Hotel Des Bains only says goodbye to Summer from the second half of September, when the Venice Film Festival comes to an end and Autumn gives its first melancholic signs of beginning. But that moment is still far away. Before we say goodbye to another season of salons, seaside and sunset guitar music, a new edition of the Festival awaits us with the magic and legendary roundup of memories that a place like this has to offer, a place in constant evolution.

The Sab (Stabilimenti attività balneari, “Beach Activity Establishments”) photographic archive, the Fondo Giacomelli (from the City of Venice Communications Archive) and the personal archive of Lido journalist Rosanna Mavian, are treasure chests of everyday life memories that go as far back as the Belle Époque, when you went to the beach fully clothed; as far back as the postwar period, with smiling beauties in bathing suits; and back to the great wakes left by superstar motorboats, attracting storms of screaming fans like bees to honey. Fans that were always ready with pen and paper for autographs.  These famous snapshots bring the Lido beach back to life. Photographers of every period have used the Lido – from the establishment of the Ciga (Compagnia Italia Grandi Alberghi) in 1906 to today – as a set for the great pastiche of fashion, art, and show business that lies behind the history of Italian fashion and lifestyle.

Back in the days, the king of comedy Alberto Sordi walked among the beach huts as well as a true Venetian, giving autographs in exchange for a few laughs at his jokes.   Gina Lollobrigida almost lost it when a group of crazy kids asked her to throw her red shoes from her window at the Excelsior. She kept her shoes in the end, and threw down a bunch of autographed photos that ended up in shreds, torn among the sea of hands.

Today, the fans group up around the windows of the cars that bring the stars from the Excelsior Hotel to the red carpet of the Palazzo del Cinema, but with very little luck: the stars now simply file down the red carpet. It is unthinkable to have them walk among the people, even less to have them take a splash with them! It didn’t end well for the only one that tried a few years ago, Rupert Everett: the lifeguards asked him to pay for his beach access. He complained and gave start to a world-wide controversy.

But yesterday’s kids – those that grew up on Summer, beach and movies – remember Abbe Lane in desabillè on the beach, stripped from the ballerina clothes that, in times when common sense and decency were not yet optional in television,  were like her second skin. And then there were Maria Callas’ elegance, Sophia Loren’s eyes, Kirk Douglas’ athletic physique strutting on the beach.

Who knows who will be guests on this beach this year: the Summer, the stars, the crowds, the parties and the flashes will be with us very soon once again!

PHOTOGRAPHY courtesy of Rosanna MavianSab Stabilimenti BalneariArchivio Giacomelli