Lido di Roma

By the end of the nineteenth century, the English invention of the pleasure pier was spreading across Europe.

There were a dozen built in Italy in the early 1900s, among them the Liberty-style construction, (the Italian variant of Art Nouveau), at  Mondello beach in Palermo, another in Monte di Procida on Lake Fusaro and the ‘roundabout’ in pure rationalist style built in 1910 in Senigallia. These magical buildings were immediately popular with everyone.

The largest and most well known of these was at the Lido di Ostia, 20 miles west of Rome. As well as the English influence, especially that of Eugenius Birch, the design also reflects that of other European structures such as the Jetée promenade in Nice and the pier in Scheveningen in the Netherlands. (Both included on this site).

The pier site consisted of two separate buildings: The ‘Panettone’ as it was called because of its shape, was built 64 meters off the coast, connected to the shore by a wide jetty, which rested on 270 poles driven into the sandy soil. On the shore-side was a monumental entrance inspired by the architecture of the imperial Roman Baths of Caracalla in Rome. There were 500 changing huts, 400 of them on the beach. On the sides of the shore-side building were two pavilions that housed the ticket offices with a large window that overlooked the waterfront. Inside were cafes, bars, reading and writing rooms and a post office, besides these, there were other buildings which contained a cinema and a puppet theatre.

The Panettone was opened to the public in August 1924, coinciding with the arrival of the Rome-Ostia railway.

Unsurprisingly, the complex immediately became one of the main centres of social life on the coast as well as in the capital itself, holding dance parties, cultural and musical events, beauty contests, nautical competitions and even fashion shows.

In 1928 it was enlarged with a new terrace with restaurant tables and a balustrade overlooking the sea. Four large fluted Doric columns, supporting winged bronze victories were placed next to the central building. It must have been a spectacular sight.

The whole complex was destroyed by the Germans on the night of December 12, 1943 while they were retreating at the end of the Second World War. Only the columns with the winged victories remained standing.

The rubble was removed in the fifties, the foundations of the pylons of the rotunda in the seabed are all that is left today.

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