Mestre today is a large suburb of Venice, but it started life as a Roman fortress which was later destroyed by Attila the Hun. Mestre grew as Venice grew, its port benefitting from Venice’s economic rise. In 1923 Mestre was designated as a city in its own right, but merged with Venice just three years later. As Venice’s residents began to move to the mainland in search of a more manageable cost of living – not to mention more space and comforts - Mestre’s population began to rise, and today tops 200,000.
Know your neighbours
Mestre is a cultural mix of former Venetians and immigrants (mostly Eastern Europeans, Asians and Africans). More and more native Venetians are taking up residence in the area, attracted by its more affordable housing. Most people working in Venice currently live in Mestre and commute to Venice daily for work. Its proximity to the port of Marghera and the large industrial complex there makes Mestre an ideal place for employment opportunities.
There are lots of shopping options in Mestre, as it’s such a large area. The central outlet mall at Centro Le Barche has a Coin department store, an H&M, a supermarket and a large chain bookstore, Le Feltrinelli, as well as designer clothes boutiques and furniture stores.
Piazza Ferretto, the main plaza in Mestre which is just minutes from Le Barche has many shops, restaurants, and souvenir stores.
Twice weekly on Wednesdays and Fridays in the pedestrian centre adjoining Le Barche you will find the outdoor ‘mercatino’, filled with vendors selling a wide variety of food, clothing, shoes and household goods. In addition, all of the streets in the vicinity of Piazza Ferretto are filled with an assortment of boutiques, shops and cafés.
Public transport in and around Mestre is affordable and abundant. The public bus service, ACTV, runs buses both in Mestre and from Mestre to Venice. You can buy tickets at any Tabacci shop.
Mestre has a new tram service which is both convenient and easy, and which currently has 18 stops on the line. All regular ACTV tickets are valid on the tram as well. Construction to expand the tram line to the city limits of Venice is currently in progress.
Mestre’s train station provides easy access to Venice, other Italian cities and major European cities, with both regional and high-speed services. Trenitalia and Italo trains are the Italian rail operators.
You can also make use of taxis in and around Mestre, to the airport and into Venice. A typical cab fare to Venice or Marco Polo Airport is around 35 euros. Many parts of Mestre are also accessible both by foot or bicycle.
See and Do
Mestre has several popular attractions. Its main square, the Piazza Ferretto, is a popular meeting spot for eating at an outdoor café or restaurant. Its central attraction is the watchtower or ‘Torre Civica’, which provides a beautiful panoramic view of the city. A contemporary water feature in the centre of the square provides the entertainment as you sit at one of the many surrounding eateries.
Parco San Giuliano is the largest of two parks in Mestre. This is a popular venue for concerts, for both local musicians and international acts. The Heineken Jazz Festival is held here every year, as well as the expo for the Venice Marathon. There are a variety of sporting activities available at this park – it’s a wonderful spot to meet for picnics along the waterfront , as well as for its view across the lagoon to Venice.
Parco Bissoula is well-loved by locals as it provides something for all ages. Here you will find basketball courts, running tracks, skating rinks as well as swimming pools to cool off in during the summer months.
Mestre also boasts several theatres, where you can catch excellent performances, such as the Teatro Toniolo at Piazzetta Cesare Battisti, the Teatro della Murata on Via G. Bruno n. 19, the Teatro del Parco Bissuola and the Corso Theatre.
Mestre has hundreds of restaurants to suit a wide range of tastes, from hamburgers and pizza to all sorts of ethnic as well as traditional regional dishes. Particular favourites are Trattoria la Bissa, which specialises in fish, traditional Venetian eatery Trattoria da Sandro, best-ever-pizza joint Pizzeria 30175, and Thai and Chinese classic Ristorante Orientale.
Unlike neighbouring Venice which doesn’t have any nightlife to speak of, Mestre has a vibrant late-night scene. Tourists and locals party the night away at the numerous dance clubs and bars in Mestre that stay open late.
Zen Café, open till 2am, is a small Asian-themed bar specialising in cocktails, wines and some of the best coffees and teas in the city. If you’re into watching sporting events and karaoke, try the Victoria Nike Bar, which is open from 7am to 2am serving everything from breakfast to late-night drinks.
For those who like their music live, head to TAG Club. This nightclub is well known for local bands opening in the early evening hours while later hours are for popular DJs, with the party going on till the small hours. You’ll find both local and international DJs performing at Arena Club as well, open at weekends from 11pm to 4am.
For blues and jazz fans, you can’t beat Al Vapore, which hosts concerts seven nights a week. Its doors are open till 2am.