First-time travelers to Mestre, Italy may arrive with the desire to only explore its more attractive neighbor Venice. In fact, many stay in Mestre because of its affordability and proximity to Venice and completely ignore what Mestre has to offer. Mestre’s history goes as far back as the Middle Ages and has some points of interest that deserve a closer look. So, here’s a list of the 10 best things for first-timers to do in Mestre, Italy
1. San Giuliano Park is a prime spot to re-charge
Consisting of 700 hectares (1,730 acres) of greenery, San Giuliano Park is the largest park in Europe. Many travelers come to San Giuliano Park to get a wonderful view of the Venice Lagoon, the Liberty Bridge, and the picturesque city of Venice across the water. It is a great place to take a break from the frenzy of sightseeing that can be overwhelming, especially for first-time visitors.
A relaxing picnic is a great way to spend time at San Giuliano Park. This expansive patch of green also offers walking trails, bike rentals, and biking paths, along with a children’s play area. San Giuliano Park also hosts outdoor concerts in the summertime that features international and local artists. Conservation efforts have helped maintain the beautiful lagoon habitat, as well as the flora and fauna found at San Giuliano Park.
San Giuliano Park
Address: Via San Giuliano, 30170 Mestre, VE
Website: San Giuliano Park
2. A bird's eye view of Mestre from gorgeous Torre Civica di Mestre
Striking an imposing figure over the Piazza Ferretto is the Torre Civica di Mestre, also known as the Torre dell'Orologio or simply the Clock Tower. The Tower dates back to the 13th century and was endowed with a clock in the 16th century. Torre Civica di Mestre is a magnificent bit of architecture that stands 24 meters (79 feet) high. Its dramatic red-brick exterior is accentuated by an impressive crenelated structure, a crucial battlement feature of its day.
Torre Civica di Mestre was once a section of Mestre’s original medieval fortifications called the Castelnuovo, which is believed to have had more than a dozen medieval towers. Only one of which, today’s Torre Civica di Mestre, remains. Torre Civica di Mestre is free to the public but is closed during the month of August. Don’t miss the chance to climb to the observation platform; you’ll be rewarded with a spectacular panoramic view of Mestre.
Torre Civica di Mestre
Address: Piazza Erminio Ferretto, 13, 30174 Venezia, Italy
Hours: 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and 4 to 7:30 p.m., closed on Mondays and holidays
Website: Torre Civica di Mestre
3. Piazza Ferretto; the heartbeat of Mestre
Piazza Ferretto is Mestre’s main square and the center of Mestre city life. Large, lengthy and attractive, it is one of the town’s best features. Piazza Ferretto, with its beautifully designed water feature and sculpture at its center, creates a relaxing atmosphere. There’s a wide variety of eateries providing outdoor seating, and many high-end stores and boutiques, making Piazza Ferretto a perfect place to pass the afternoon either shopping or simply indulging in a cappuccino or a scoop of gelato. Piazza Ferretto is also home to the Teatro Toniolo, a beautiful theater that is a source of great pride for the people of Mestre. Considered an important architectural landmark, Teatro Toniolo is the hub of the arts, with its symphonies, theater, dance, and comic performances.
Address: Piazza Ferretto, Piazza Erminio Ferretto, 30100 Venezia VE, Italy
4. Duomo di Mestre; spiritual center of Mestre
Duomo di Mestre, also referred to as the Church of San Lorenzo, is considered the religious heart of the city of Mestre. The current structure was built in the 18th century, to replace the former church that was destroyed in a fire. While it may not effectively compete with the spectacular interiors of other churches in Venice, if you’re a fan of religious artwork it’s definitely worth a look. Particular items of note are the delicate frescoes and a marvelous crucifix in the chapel area. Duomo di Mestre neoclassical exterior and its original Romanesque bell tower, the only remaining part of the previous building, makes it a worthwhile exploration.
Duomo di Mestre
Address: Corte Marin Sanudo, 30174 Venezia VE, Italy
Website: Duomo di Mestre (in Italian)
5. Dine in the rustic Italian landscape at Ristorante ai Tre Garofani
Photo is only for illustrative purposes
Being a first-time visitor to Mestre, you’re probably curious to see a bit of the surrounding area. Nestled in the Venetian countryside and just a quick 15-minute drive is Ristorante ai Tre Garofani. A perfect locale for a romantic dinner, Ristorante ai Tre Garofani was once a tavern 100 years ago, then a failed pizzeria.
Today, Ristorante ai Tre Garofani has evolved into an elegant and refined restaurant that prides itself on serving the best and freshest fish dishes. Try the acclaimed red shrimp or the delicate gnocchi with crab; the sauces are light and in no way overpower the food. A tasting menu is available that is out-of-this-world delicious, offering two appetizers, one first course, a second course and dessert for 74 USD. A good price for such a tasty tour.
Ristorante ai Tre Garofani
Address: Via Asseggiano, 308, 30174 Venezia, Italy
Contact: +39 041 991307
Website: Ristorante ai Tre Garofani
6. Sweetness is on tap at Gelateria Chocolat
Photo is only for illustrative purposes
Gelateria Chocolat’s philosophy is “We like to make ice cream” but they’re so much more than ice cream. Promoting only the best quality of ingredients; like the freshest milk and fruit, and rejecting dyes and hydrogenated fats, Gelateria Chocolat offers a myriad of sweet treats, from gelatos and sorbets to cannolis and crepes. Gelateria Chocolat even displays its true Italian origins by providing items like gianduiotti and panne ice. The pistachio ricotta cheese with wafers and whipped cream will put you over the moon with delight. The simple, but very flavorful, mint ice cream is also a winner.
Address: Corso del Popolo, 169-171, 30172 Venezia loc. Mestre VE, Italy
Hours: 12:30 to 9:30 p.m. daily
Website: Gelateria Chocolat
7. Gothic style that'll have you gawking; Chiesa di San Girolamo
Mestre has a long historical past and in that time the city has built some revered and notable churches. Chiesa di San Girolamo is one of those churches. Built in 1261, Chiesa di San Girolamo is one of the oldest churches in Mestre. Located in the heart of the city, Chiesa di San Girolamo has undergone some changes in its long history.
In the 18th century, its facade underwent a restoration that contains the beautiful Istrian stone, a dense type of impermeable limestone. When stepping inside the beautiful Gothic-style interior, don’t miss the opportunity to view the 15th-century wooden cross. A crucifix of cedar wood preserved inside the church has an interesting history with locals and is deeply venerated by the Chiesa di San Girolamo parishioners. There are also remarkably beautiful paintings from the Renaissance age that will make you happy you walked through the doors.
Chiesa di San Girolamo
Address: Via S. Girolamo, 28, 30174 Mestre-Venezia VE, Italy
Website: Chiesa di San Girolamo
8. Explore an ancient citadel; Forte Marghera
Forte Marghera is a fascinating structure that is one of twelve forts that comprises a former defense system, known as the Entrenched Camps of Mestre. A quick bit of history; in the 1800s, Venice, a city built on water, feared coming under seize by hostile entities. So the city built a series of forts. Forte Marghera was the first to be erected.
Austrians began construction and the French helped complete the project. Although time has not been kind to the structures, left largely abandoned and inaccessible, Forte Marghera and others have made a comeback with the aid of Venice officials and volunteers. Forte Marghera today is a Venetian historical and cultural legacy. Visitors are welcome, but you must make a reservation.
Address: Via Forte Marghera, 30, 30173 Venezia VE, Italy
Contact: +39 041 531 9706
Website: Forte Marghera
9. Forte Carpenedo; Forte Marghera's partner in defense
Making up another section of the Entrenchment Camp of Mestre is Forte Carpenedo. Forte Carpenedo was completed in the late 19th century with the goal of supporting Forte Marghera. Exploring Forte Carpenedo, visitors will uncover various areas like the commandant’s office, infirmary, and cafeteria.
Forte Carpenedo, as well as the other eleven, hold, without a doubt, historical significance. But they also provide a naturalistic importance, because of their wide ditches, up to 50 meters (164 feet) and the fields of flora and fauna species that are in danger of extinction. Volunteers provide guided tours on the first Sunday of the month or by appointment during the week.
Address: Via Vallon, 101, 30174 Venezia VE, Italy
Contact: +39 041 535 2041
Website: Forte Carpenedo
A visit to Hotel Villa Barbarich will take your breath away. Originally a 16th-century Venetian villa, Hotel Villa Barbarich’s renovated spaces have returned Villa Barbarich to its initial splendor. With its impeccable decor of period furniture, fresco paintings, and gorgeous Italian garden, Hotel Villa Barbarich is a sight unlike any other. And you don’t have to be a hotel guest to experience this wonder.
Tours are available, but you must make a request in advance. Only a 15-minute drive from Mestre, Hotel Villa Barbarich also offers the elegant Ristorante Malipiero. So, make it an unforgettable day; tour the Villa, then bask in the beauty around you, while feasting on a divine Italian meal. To experience life in an ancient Italian villa, put Hotel Villa Barbarich on your list of travel plans.
Mestre is more than Venice's forgotten neighbor
Like a younger sibling trying to outperform an older, Mestre lives in Venice’s shadow. But it’s actually a mistake to dismiss this underappreciated city. If you arrive in Mestre for the first time eyeing only Venice and viewing Mestre as simply an affordable and convenient stop to stash your luggage and sleep, then you’ll miss a valuable opportunity to explore some unique surroundings that may be just outside your hotel room.
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