Caorle, is a nice seaside village in the Venice Province of Italy's Veneto Region and well known for clean beaches and a town of full of local culture, history and tradition. Called the "miniature Venice", Caorle is a series of calli and campielli overlooked by houses painted with the vivid colors of the Venetian tradition. A wonderfully sculpted sea wall protects precious monuments: the Church of the Madonna dell'Angelo, the cathedral of S. Stefano and the cylinder-shaped bell tower, which today is the symbol of the town.
Before it was a holiday resort, Caorle was a fishing port, and although tourism is now the most visible business here, fishing is still important. The fishermen's port, Porto Peschereccio, behind the town centre, is lined with working sea-going fishing boats. Caorle sits between the mouth of the river Livenza, a network of inland canals (draining the formerly marshy Veneto) and a wide area of water, mud and small islands known as the Caorle lagoon (Laguna di Caorle). Surrounded by waterways, Caorle is effectively an island, though connected by bridges. Porto Santa Margherita, a seaside suburb just the other side of the Livenza, is connected to the centre of Caorle by a ferry (traghetto). Along the lagoon shore are some examples of an unusual kind of local dwelling, seasonal fishermen's huts called casoni, made of reeds.
WHAT TO SEE IN CAORLE
The historic centre, just behind the seafront, is charming and full of character, with colourful painted houses and picturesque little squares and alleyways. There is a central shopping street, Via Rio Terrà (a former canal), which is largely pedestrianised, where you can find everyday shops as well as beachwear, postcards and ice creams. Hidden away in little courtyards are pretty cafes and restaurants; glancing through gaps in brightly-painted houses you'll see comfortable scenes such as couples eating at a pizzeria, comfortable outdoor bar tables under vine-covered trellises, a local leaning a bicycle against a painted wall.
Caorle's historic centre is clustered on a small bulging promontory, with long wide beaches either side. The heart of town is Piazza Vescovado, site of the town's cathedral, the Duomo or Cattedrale di Santo Stefano. The cathedral is a fine ancient building dating from the eleventh century, though heavily restored. Inside the church is a calm aura of antiquity. Stone and brick columns alternate either side of the nave, and a fragment of early-Christian sculpted marble is incorporated into the modern pulpit. Don't miss the rather endearing fresco of Santa Lucia, presenting her eyes on a plate, surrounded by quaintly-painted scenes from the saint's life. An equally charming wooden statue of San Rocco stands near the door, proudly displaying his own saintly attributes of a plague sore on the thigh and a little dog. The cathedral's other precious art includes a fifteenth-century wooden crucifix and a 'Pala d'Oro' screen of silver and gold displayed behind the altar. Alongside the building is one of the town's symbols, its remarkable campanile (belltower). This tall, round, thin tower was possibly built as a watchtower; the views from the top must be tremendous. The upper part of the tower seems to be supported miraculously by a fine, delicate arched loggia.
The eighteenth-century Santuario della Madonna dell'Angelo sits right on the tip of the promontory with a campanile that doubles as a lighthouse, looking masterfully out over the Adriatic and seeming to hover between the sea and the fishing boats, the lines of beach sun loungers and row of hotels along the beach beyond. The church commemorates a miracle; the wooden statue of the Virgin Mary preserved inside was said to have been found by local fishermen as it floated in the sea on top of the marble base is displayed in the church. The church and story are important to the caorlotti, people of Caorle, and there are processions at sea every five years in honour of this event (the next is due to be held in 2015). The promenade approaching the church, the Lungomare Petronia, is separated from the sea by boulders which have been sculpted by artists into a permanent art show.
OUTDOOR RECREATION IN CAORLE
Caorle is a seaside resort, so for many visitors, the main thing to do is to enjoy the beaches and the sea.
Golfing in Caorle
There's an 18-hole golf-course, Golf Pra' delle Torri, five miles away beside the sea.
There are wide sandy beaches on either side of the historic centre of Caorle, linked by a charming seafront promenade. The beaches are very well-equipped, lined with row upon row of sun chairs and parasols for hire. There are children's play areas on the sands, and also fitness areas. Behind the beaches are rows of hotels and holiday rental apartments, along with all the normal seaside businesses: gelaterie, cafes, bars, restaurants, souvenir shops and so on. The town doesn't extend far inland from the sea, so wherever you are in Caorle, the beach is never far away.
If you are visiting Caorle in the summer months, a boat excursion is a must-do activity. Daily trips take holidaymakers into Venice, but you shouldn't miss the opportunity to explore the waterways and lagoon of Caorle itself. Two or three boats, including a small traditional bragozzo, operate trips lasting a couple of hours which explore the waterways and lagoon of Caorle. There are also romantic evening boat trips.
Boat trips start running regularly around the middle of May, but it is always a good idea to check and perhaps book in advance, by telephoning ahead, or asking your hotel or the tourist office. Trips to Venice run Monday-Friday, departing at 8am and leaving Venice at 4pm.
Bicycling Around Caorle
There are a number of different bicycle itineraries around Caorle; ask at the tourist information office or your hotel for more information - or plan your own route on a map. The landscape is flat and divided by canals which frequently have paths alongside them, so it is a good area for cycling. Although not dramatic, the rural scenery is attractive and interesting. In Caorle you can hire bicycles (normal bikes as well as the multi-rider 'jaunting' kind) on Via Istria, at a reasonable hourly rate.
GETTING TO CAORLE, ITALY
Getting to Caorle is quite easy, thanks to regular bus connections with Venice and Marco Polo airport. However, Caorle's geographical position out on a coastline interrupted by rivers, canals and lagoons prevents it from being a good base for an exploring holiday. You can visit one or two places by public transport or driving, but if you want to take in a larger variety of destinations, I'd recommend moving on from Caorle to an inland BASE.
By air: The main airport for Venice, Marco Polo Airport, is very convenient for Caorle, as the ATVO bus from Venice to Caorle (see below) stops in the airport forecourt (buy your ticket in advance at the ticket desk inside the arrivals hall). The buses run roughly hourly, and the journey takes just under an hour and a half. There's luggage space in the hold.
Treviso Airport, served by Ryanair (as 'Venice Treviso'), is also near Caorle. A third option, also with budget flights, is Trieste Airport. From here you would need to take a bus to Monfalcone station, a train to Portogruaro and then another bus to Caorle.
By train: Caorle doesn't have a railway station. The most convenient station to use is Portogruaro, on the Venice - Trieste railway line. Hourly buses connect Portogruaro station with Caorle.
By bus: Caorle bus station (autostazione) is a short walk from the centre of town. ATVO services connect Caorle and neighbouring Porto Santa Margherita with the rest of the Veneto and with the railway network. You can view the latest timetables on the ATVO website (see links panel on the right). Venice is two hours away by bus; a long but scenic journey over the reclaimed wetlands of the Veneto plain. The bus stops in Piazzale Roma in Venice, and after reaching Caorle it continues over the canal to Porto Santa Margherita. Other destinations which can be reached by bus from Caorle, although with limited journeys per day, include Treviso and Oderzo (changing at San Dona' di Piave, a bustling inland town), the seaside resort of Eraclea Mare and Udine (a couple of services a day, changing in Portogruaro).
WHERE TO STAY IN CAORLE
Caorle is packed with seaside hotels and holiday apartments.