On the doorstep of hot and crowded Venice, summer beach fun is in full swing on the long sandy shores of Caorle.
Much like another of the beach towns we love near Venice, a little place called Chioggia, you've a lot of good things going on here: great beaches, fascinating cycling paths and an old town of immense charm.
Don't rush either; spend at least three or four days to discover everything and to enjoy some relaxing beach time. We always stay at the Hotel Angelo, it's only a few roads back from the beach in the old town, great value and always a warm welcome. For something right on the water try the Hotel Astoria.
Blue Flag quality, endless soft sand, and warm water What more could one want from a beach?
Even better news is that there are two beaches: the Spiaggia di Levante in the east and the Spiaggia di Ponente in the west. They're divided by the old town, but both are an easy walk from pretty much anywhere in town.
Both have free and paid sections. In season, most of the pay sections are reserved for hotels. If you are staying at the Hotel Astoria, then they have a lovely stretch of sand just waiting for you with a private changing room, reserved deck chairs and beach umbrellas.
If you're staying at the more affordable Hotel Angelo, or any of the other accommodation options a little further from the shore, then you'll need to use the free sections available on both beaches.
Hire a bike, or use the free ones that many hotels provide, and head out to the Casoni.
It's an easy and pleasant cycle over flat terrain.
The best route is along the beachfront bike path. Keep on along the path until you reach the end of the track, and then head inland on via Torino and take the first right. After that, keep going until you reach a T-junction. Turn left, and then it is straight on to the Casoni.
It takes around 45 minutes to get there, and cycling through the whole area is delightful.
This is an Italy that's more like Bayou Country in Louisiana. It's unlike the traditional view of Italy, but it is still an important part of life around here, it is this swampy terrain that has led to the traditions that have made the area what it is. The locals are fiercely proud of this part of their heritage.
Okay, what are Casoni?
They are little fishermen's houses made out of reeds; some of them are now big and elaborate, with most of the luxuries of modern life inside. There is even one that has been converted into a restaurant, the Cason Grottolo. Don't bother eating there. Although the setting is lovely, the food is overpriced and not worth the money or the setting. Service is lousy too.
The Casoni are fascinating to explore though, and one or two will let you in to have a look around. Many have beautiful vegetable gardens, and, during the summer, the owners live entirely from what they grow in their gardens and the fish that they catch.
Our Tip: Bring lots of mosquito spray/cream. Because of the waterways, there are lots of them.
The 11th-century Cathedral of Saint Stephen is magnificent in a simple rather than flashy way.
It was the bell tower that impressed me the most. Apparently, it is the only one of its kind left anywhere. It seemed to belong to another world, like something out of a fairy tale. You almost expect Rapunzel to lean out and let her hair down at any moment.
Don't miss the Church of the Virgin Mary either. The entire identity of the town revolves around this church and a statue of the Virgin Mary with Child discovered at sea centuries ago. The statue was brought ashore, and now the local festivals celebrate this event.
Spend time in the old town; it really is lovely. The houses are colorful, with a maze of little lanes that recall Burano.
Personally, when I'm staying in a fishing town, I like to eat seafood. If that's you too, then I have just the place: Ristorante da Buso. The seafood is invariably superb and always fresh, and the service is always friendly and professional.
If seafood isn't for you, they have some really good dishes without anything fishy in them; the spaghetti with zucchini and prosciutto crudo is a dish my son enjoys.
The other great thing about Ristorante da Buso is that it is a two-minute walk away from the Hotel Angelo (where we always stay in Caorle). Makes it easy to get home after a little too much vino ;-)
Make it up to your kids for all those times they've had to trudge through museums "enjoying" the history of Italy: take them to Aquafollie Water Park. There you will find all sorts of water slides, games, and pools, guaranteed to keep them busy the entire day.
A car rental is the easiest way to get to Caorle. If you don't want to drive, you can get a bus from Venice Marco Polo airport to Caorle. Just ask the ticket office as you come through arrivals. The bus is the number 4A, operated by ATVO.
If you're arriving by train, get off at the Portogruaro station and then take the local bus into Caorle from outside the station. Train timetables can be found on the trenitalia.com website, while the buses leave every 60 minutes or so during the day. The bus you need to catch is line 2, which is operated by ATVO.
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