Venice is one of Italy’s most popular tourist destinations… and, surprisingly enough, the surrounding area is perfect for travellers on a budget! Staying in Mestre, the mainland town connected to Venice by rail and bridges over the lagoon, is a cheaper alternative than splashing out on accommodation smack dab in the middle of the Venetian centre.
Mestre is filled with a large selection of free and cheap activities for anyone seeking a fun-filled holiday that doesn’t break the bank. From plaza people-watching to delightful daytrips, this hidden Italian gem is well worth discovering.
Piazza Ferretto is one of the most beautiful plazas in all of Italy. It dates back to the Middle Ages, when a small market grew around the central church. Today it is considered a cultural symbol of Mestre, as well as the city’s epicentre… and best of all? It’s a free public space!
The square is located in the city’s historic district, and locals and tourists alike flock to it all year round. Become one of the faces in the crowd as you explore the quaint alleyways, dine at the restaurants, peruse the high-end shops, marvel at the remarkable buildings’ architecture or relax in a café with a book and a coffee. Make sure to keep an eye (and an ear!) out for the buskers that frequent the piazza – there are often live magic and musical acts to entertain the general public.
Did You Know? Piazza Ferretto has been completely pedestrianised since the 1980s.
Centro Le Barche
What’s a holiday abroad without a little hunting for souvenirs (or, if you’re feeling cheeky, a treat for yourself)? If you’re feeling like you can spare a euro or two, the local shopping centre, Centro Le Barche, is the perfect place for retail therapy. Here you can splurge on clothing, a book, a decorative item for your house or a number of other bits and bobs. If you start to feel yourself flagging and need to up your energy levels, there are a few eateries that feature frozen yogurt, coffee, crepes and much more – perfect for when you need that mid-shopping break.
Top Tip: Adamant about sticking to your budget? Good for you! Window shopping is completely free – and just as fun!
Visit the Rest of Venice
The rest of Venice is easily accessible from Mestre – you can get there in around 15 minutes by taxi. Once you’ve arrived, there are a number of sightseeing opportunities that are completely free of charge. Here are some of my favourite things to do… and they don’t cost a penny.
- Marvel at the various Venetian monuments and buildings, such as St Mark’s Basilica, St Mark’s Square, Doges Palace, the Bridge of Sighs and San Marco Campanile.
- Wander down the Canale Grande and take in the city’s beautiful views. While you’re meandering down the waterfront, make sure to keep an eye out for iconic Ponte di Rialto Bridge!
- Stop by the Ponte dell’Accademia art gallery. Even if you decide not to enter, the outside is a masterpiece in its own right.
Where to Stay
ao Hotel Venezia Mestre 2 – This is a great accommodation option if you’re looking to save money or make friends. Unlike many hostels, it comes with a private bathroom per each room, however the kitchen and lounge areas are shared so it’s easy to meet other travellers during your stay. Guests are also treated to onsite breakfast and can make use of the great central location of the property (it’s nearby Piazza Feretto!).
Green Garden Resort – If you like to stay active even while abroad, this lovely little resort could be the one for you. There is an onsite tennis court, and they offer free access to the fitness area and outdoor swimming pool. After your work out, you can enjoy some peace and quiet in your room before you venture out into Mestre and beyond. Start your day with an Italian breakfast in their restaurant – it even includes an outside eating area where you can admire the greenery of the large park in which the hotel is set. After all, it’s called Green Garden Resort for a reason!
How to Get There
If you’re travelling from the UK, the easiest way to get to Mestre is to fly into Venice Marco Polo Airport (VCE), a flight that takes only two hours. Once you’ve landed, I recommend taking a transfer from the airport to your accommodation. My favourite provider is Shuttle Direct. They’re affordable and always make my journeys simple, safe and fast – exactly what I need after a flight to a foreign country.
- UK to VCE Flight Time: 2 hours
- VCE to Mestre Distance: 10 kilometres
- Shuttle Direct Transfer Time: 19 minutes
About Shuttle Direct
Here at Shuttle Direct we pride ourselves on being one of the top airport transfer providers. We operate all over Europe and North Africa, so whether you’re hopping over to Hungary, flying out to Finland or travelling to Turkey, we’ve got all your transportation needs covered. Get in touch next time you’re abroad and need a ride – we’re here to get you where you need to go.