Mestre ([ˈmɛstre]) is the center and the most populated urban area of the mainland of Venice, part of the territory of the Metropolitan City of Venice, in Veneto, northern Italy.
Administratively speaking, Mestre forms (together with the nearby urban area of Carpenedo) the Municipalità di Mestre-Carpenedo, one of the six boroughs of the commune (Comune) of Venice. Sometimes considered as a frazione, it is Italy's most populated, with 89,373 inhabitants.
The mainland of Venice is the territory of the city based on normal land (instead of natural or artificial islands like the most well-known parts of Venice) connected to the historical center by a long rail and road bridge over the Venetian lagoon, called Ponte della Libertà (Freedom Bridge).
Since the end of World War II, Mestre had a quick and disordered urban growth, after which Mestre constitutes a vast human settlement together with the other urban centers of the Venetian mainland (Carpenedo, Marghera, Favaro Veneto, Chirignago, Zelarino, Tessera). Mestre being the center and the most populated area of the mainland, in common language the toponym Mestre is very often used, incorrectly, to define the whole Venetian mainland.
Mestre received the title of city in 1923 and maintained it briefly till 1926, when was annexed to the commune of Venice.
Mestre, previously known as the quartiere 10 Mestre centro, has around 50,000 inhabitants while the Municipalità di Mestre-Carpenedo (one of the six boroughs of the commune of Venice) has around 90,000 inhabitants, and the whole Venetian mainland (boroughs of Mestre-Carpenedo, Marghera, Chirignago-Zelarino and Favaro Veneto) has around 170,000 inhabitants. For a comparison, there are just around 60,000 inhabitants in the historic center of Venice (San Marco, Castello, Cannaregio, San Polo, Dorsoduro, Santa Croce) and just around 30,000 in the major islands of the lagoon of Venice (Lido, Pellestrina, Murano, Burano, Mazzorbo, Torcello), making a total of around 90,000 inhabitants of Venice living in the part based on islands, compared to the circa 170,000 inhabitants in the mainland.
Public transport is managed by Azienda del Consorzio Trasporti Veneziano. There are several bus routes and one tramway line. Several bus routes link mainland with piazzale Roma, the main bus station in Venice, via Ponte della Libertà a road bridge connecting the historical center of the city of Venice, that is a group of islands, to the mainland.
According to legends, Mestre was founded by Mesthles, a companion of the hero Antenor, a fugitive from Troy who founded Padua. The true origins of the city are uncertain, although it is known that a Roman oppidum (fortress) existed here, though this was destroyed by Attila and probably rebuilt in the 10th century.
The first historical mention is from an Imperial diploma by Otto III, by which Rambald, count of Treviso, received land in the area named Mestre. In 1152 a papal bull by Pope Eugene III recognized the bishop of Treviso as lord of Mestre, citing the existence of the church of St. Lawrence, a castle and a port. In 1257 the bishops ceded it to Alberico da Romano, podestat of Treviso.
The port benefited from the economic growth of Venice, constituting its main connection to the Italian mainland. In 1274 a fire destroyed the castle, and the inhabitants moved to a location nearby, Castelnuovo (new Castle). No traces remain today of the old castle.
The Scaliger family from Verona conquered Mestre and Treviso in 1323. The Venetians, fearing the excessive Veronese power in the mainland, conquered Mestre on September 29, 1337. An artificial channel was built to facilitate the transport of goods.
The Venetian domination ended on July 16, 1797. In 1808 Mestre, following the French practice, constituted itself into a free commune. It remained such under the subsequent Austrian and Italian rules, receiving the title of city in 1923. Three years later, however, a Royal Decree annexed Mestre and some other neighbouring comuni (Chirignago, Zelarino and Favaro Veneto) to the comune of Venezia.
Since that moment there has been several political attempts to regain independence (including four referendums of the population in 1979, 1989, 1994 and 2003) but in every case the proposals of separating Mestre (and the Venetian mainland) from Venice were rejected.
In the 1960s and 1970s Mestre experienced a population boom, fuelled mainly by the construction of the nearby huge industrial district of Marghera.
Mestre is now a preferred starting point for tourists visiting Venice, due to Mestre's favorable location, its cheap and frequent connections to the historical center of Venice by train and by bus (available also during the night), and Mestre's more reasonable prices of bars, discos, car parking, hotels, restaurants, and supermarkets, compared to the prices of the same touristic services in the historical and touristic center of Venice. The city already has some experience as host of major international basketball tournaments such as the EuroBasket 1979, which drew many tourists to the city.Duomo of St. Lawrence (17th century)
Palazzo da Re
Torre dell'Orologio (Watchtower, 1108)
Orto Botanico Locatelli, a small botanical garden
In Donna Leon's third Commissario Guido Brunetti mystery novel, The Anonymous Venetian (1994) aka Dressed for Death, a body is found battered to death behind an abbatoir near Marghera - just inside the border of Mestre - where the Commissario staff is short-handed, and Patta assigns Brunetti to head the investigation for the Mestre questura.