It’s time to get some of the nitty-gritty details of the Venice Kayak project done, so I’m now in Mestre where my business partner Marco Ballarin lives. It is our plan to get some of the basic formalities and agreements in order in the next week or two. Hopefully we can get going in May.
The city of Mestre is a nice place, but quite overshadowed by the nearby Venice. The city’s roots are in the Middle Ages, when Treviso made a fortress here to counter the influence of Venice on the mainland. In the 14th century Venice expanded onto the mainland anyway, and took control of Mestre. Mestre became the main point of entry for all trade between the city in the lagoon and the mainland, and flourished. The city walls were completely destroyed in a battle in the 16th century, and only one tower of the original wall is still standing, the Torre dell’Orologio.
In modern times Mestre has become the industrial and commercial centre for Venice and for much of the surrounding area too. A huge industrial harbour now exists south of the old city, at Porto Marghera, and loads of industry has followed too, causing Mestre to grow in all directions, so Mestre now has its own suburbs around the old city centre.
The old city centre is still where one goes for entertainment and an evening out. The area around Piazza Ferretto and Via Palazzo is full of bars, cafés, restaurants, cinemas and ice cream places, and the piazza’s and small roads are full of people in the evening.
A major issue in Italian cities is vivibilitÃ , the “livability” of the cities. Congestion is often so bad that people spend hours each day coping with problems of traffic, parking, garbage and other daily problems. Mestre must have a very high vivibilitÃ index. Much of the city centre is almost entirely closed off to motorised traffic, leaving ample space for pedestrians and bicyclists. Traffic seems manageable, and I still haven’t seen a real traffic jam here. People can find parking spaces for their car without driving in circles for half an hour, and the city in general seems clean and well kept. Compared to many other Italian cities, both in the North and in the South, Mestre is a small paradise.
They even have something very rare here in Italy. They have bike lanes throughout most of the city. You can almost go anywhere on a well protected bike lane, and in some places they have converted streets into combined pedestrian and bicycle roads, with no cars whatsoever.
I have taken the consequence of this and today I bought myself a bicycle. I am probably (and hopefully) going to spend a lot of time here in Venice, both on the Lido, in Venice proper and here in Mestre and surroundings, and a bicycle does seem to be the perfect means of transport both here in Mestre and on the Lido. Bicicles are, like other forms of wheeled transportation, banned in Venice except for the limited area of Piazzale Roma.
Yesterday I went for a long walk to the new Parco San Giuliano, an absolutely huge public park on an area bordering on the lagoon near the bridge leading to Venice. There too Mestre has got it right. Making a huge park on the outskirts of town is not enough, it must also be easily accessible. At the main entrances to the park there are large parking areas, and a pedestrian bridge leads over the large intersection of roads in front of the park, giving easy access by foot and bicycle. The Viale San Marco, which connects the city centre and entrance to the park, has been equipped with wide side walks and bicycle lanes, so everybody can get to and from the park in safety.
Food here in Italy is something quite different from what we find in Denmark. Here fruit and vegetables actually have taste, and there’s a multitude of cheeses and fresh fish I have never seen in Denmark. For most Italians food is one of the most important things in life, not just in the sense of fuel for the body. Italians enjoy eating together, and a meal can easily take three hours and some will still consider it a bit rushed. These photos are from a plain run-of-the-mill supermarket here in Mestre, nothing special.
All in all, Mestre is a very nice place to stay.