Who doesn’t think of glitz, glamour and romance when they think of Venice, the jewel in Italy’s crown? Stunningly beautiful it may be, as well as famous for its incredible history, unique layout and celebrity visitors, but that doesn’t mean that this place is out of reach for the regular, more budget-conscious traveller. In fact, if you choose your accommodation wisely and opt to stay in the neighbouring but very accessible Mestre, you are in for a real treat at a fraction of the cost that you’d incur if you were to stay in Venice itself.
Mestre is on the mainland, but lies only 2.6 miles from the magical Venetian lagoons, and despite understandably appearing somewhat less beautiful when compared to Venice itself, Mestre is a lot more appealing than many guidebooks give it credit for.
Obviously, you will want to make the most of seeing Venice and enjoy the majority of your time in the city itself, but I really recommend that you spend a day in Mestre, explore on foot and see what this suburb has to offer. One thing is for sure: the attractions here are not on the regular tourist trail, and so you can look forward to enjoying them in peace!
A Walking Tour of Mestre
I suggest starting your tour at the train station on the south-western side of the town. A short distance from the centre, it is a hub of activity, servicing over 500 trains per day. Trains to Venice leave every few minutes, which is great news for anyone opting to stay here.
From the station, you will naturally head along the Via Piave, which will take you right into the heart of town. The street is bustling with activity, and the hum of shops, cafes and restaurants fills the air. Definitely stop for a cappuccino and pastry at one of the bars along Via Piave, allowing you to soak up some local atmosphere. Buildings on this street are an eclectic mixture of old and new and among the more traditional historic offerings are apartments, parks and churches. Look out for the sculptured fountain alongside one of the gardens on this street.
Getting closer to town brings you to the Riviera XX Settembre, where the business of daily life greets you. Walking along this pedestrianised street is a joy, and as cyclists brush shoulders and people spill out of cafes, it is easy to appreciate how pleasant Mestre really is.
Shopping in Mestre
If you haven’t done all of your shopping in Venice already, Mestre’s shopping centre might appeal to you. There is a whole host of boutiques that range from H&M, Benetton and Sisley to the more prestigious La Galleria G. Matteotti, and whether you are looking for clothes, electronics or books, you won’t be disappointed here.
Top Tip: The best public toilets in town are in the upstairs mall. They are free, too.
Piazza Ferretto and the Cathedral
Piazza San Marco in Venice is justly famous, but the less well-known Piazza Ferretto in Mestre is not to be ignored. If you happen to be around on Sunday, the evenings in this square are lots of fun. As the animated Italian banter gets louder, people gather, chatter, play games, drink and make merry. I definitely suggest indulging in a Campari spritz and a local aperitivo as you hang around. Surrounded by eighteenth-century buildings and some unusual ornate features, such as the façade of the Cinema Excelsior, this square is a gem of a spot that deserves a visit.
At the southern end of Piazza Ferretto is the Duomo di Mestre (the cathedral). Despite having been reconstructed between 1781 and 1805, documents suggest that the church was in existence in 1152. Why not stop for a wander round?
By now you will be ready for a drink and some chicchetti (the Venetian tapas), so make your way to Marghera from here and start downloading your photos over a refreshing beverage or two.
How to Get to Mestre
Getting to Venice is easy – and not expensive, either! For around £70 you can fly from London Stansted to Venice Treviso (TSF) Airport, which is the closet one to Mestre. The flight time is only two hours, so you’ll have just enough time to enjoy a glass of fizz or two to celebrate the start of your holiday.
On arrival, I can highly recommend hopping on a shared transfer to Mestre. Shuttle Direct offers a fantastic service that you can rely on. Regular Shuttle Direct coach services leave the airport for Mestre or, if you prefer not to wait for one of these, you can pre-book a shared taxi before you travel. Whatever option you choose, if you book with Shuttle Direct, you don’t have to worry about making the 30-minute journey to your final destination.
Where to Stay
Hotel Venezia – This hotel ticks all of the boxes when it comes to location and facilities. A great budget option, it is well-appointed, centrally located and offers a buffet style breakfast and free Wi-Fi. Women in particular will be pleased to note that hairdryers are provided at the Hotel Venezia, so you can leave yours at home and pack the third pair of shoes after all! There is excellent information available at reception, too. This place offers real value for money.
Hotel Aurora – A typically Italian hotel, Aurora offers functional bright rooms, air-conditioning and TVs. Right in front of a bus stop where you can hop on the bus to Venice, Hotel Aurora is well located. With a restaurant that serves a buffet breakfast, you are on to a winner if you want a hearty start to your long day of shopping or sightseeing.
Hotel Delle Rose – My final recommendation is the Hotel Delle Rose. As a family-run establishment, this hotel has that home-away-from-home feel. Wi-Fi is free in common areas and in summer you can soak up a bit of sun and enjoy a drink or two in the delightful patio area. I love the breakfast here too, which features a delicious buffet selection of sweet and savoury options.
About Shuttle Direct
At Shuttle Direct we take great pride in our professional and reliable service. Providing transfers from airports all over Europe and North Africa, our team are on hand to get you to your final destination. You can book in advance, choose from private or shared options and look forward to seamless onward travel, wherever you may be heading.