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'Is Venice connected to the mainland?'

Venice, Italy's historic center is built on 118 small islands that are linked by 400+ footbridges. A railroad bridge and the Ponte della Libertà, a highway bridge, connect the centro storico to Venice's modern mainland districts of Mestre and Marghera.

Aerial photo of Venice and Venetian Lagoon, with labels.

ABOVE: Venice's centro storico, or historic center, is in the middle of this aerial photo. The thin line above the "Mestre & Marghera" label is the railroad bridge and causeway to the Venetian mainland. Click here for a bigger image if you're usig high-speed Internet and a large screen.

First-time visitors to Venice are often surprised to learn that the city (or at least its historic portion) is located offshore, some 4 km or 2.5 from terra firma or dry land. Until 1846, the only way to reach the city center was by boat.

Today, you can reach the centro storico, or historic center, by multiple modes of transportation:

  • A railroad bridge runs from the mainland to Venezia Santa Lucia (the city's main RR station).

  • A causeway, the Ponte della Libertà, is used by cars, taxis, buses, trucks, the T1 Mestre-Venice tram, bicycles, and pedestrians. It leads to three destinations on the edge of the historic  center: The Piazzale Roma (Venice's main terminus for motorized traffic) the Tronchetto parking island, and the cruise terminals of Marittima and San Basilio/Santa Marta.

Venice, Italy - Ponte della Liberta and railroad bridge from Mestre and Marghera

ABOVE: A railroad bridge has connected Venice (top half of photo) to the Italian mainland since 1846. Alongside it runs the Ponte della Libertà, a causeway that serves motor vehicles, trams, bicycles, and pedestrians. Click here for a larger photo.

Why Venice's location matters:

1. Venice is more than the centro storico.

Venice's historic center is just one part of the Comune di Venezia, a.k.a. the City of Venice. It isn't even the biggest part: The centro storico has about 50,000 residents, while the municipality as a whole has a population of more than 260,000.

Most Venetians live in the comune's mainland districts of Mestre and Marghera. However, nearly everything of interest to visitors is in the historic center. This leads to our next point:

2. "Where should I stay?" requires an educated choice.

When choosing a hotel or vacation apartment in Venice, you have three options:

  • The centro storico. Rates tend to be higher in the center, and it's important to pick the right location, but you'll experience a Venice that daytrippers never see. (Early in the morning and late in the evening, the city is less crowded and feels more welcoming than in the daytime.)

  • Mestre or Marghera. Venice's mainland districts are pleasant enough, and you'll pay less for comparable accommodation than you would in central Venice. (Some hotels even have parking.)

    However, there are three significant downsides: You'll waste time commuting, you won't have a place to relax between bouts of sightseeing, and you'll miss out on the pleasures of off-hours Venice.

    For advice on where to stay in Venice's mainland districts, see our Mestre and Marghera Hotels article.

  • Lido. Venice's Lido di Venezia beach resort is a barrier island between the Adriatic Sea and the Venetian Lagoon. Like Mestre and Marghera (but unlike the centro storico) it allows bicycles and cars.

    We prefer the city center (especially for a first-time visit), but the Lido is worth considering if you're visiting from spring through early fall.

    The Lido is only a few minutes from Venice's centro storico by public vaporetto. You can reduce commuting costs with a tourist travel pass.

3. How to reach Venice by air, land, or sea.

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About the author:

Durant Imboden photo.Durant Imboden has written about Venice, Italy since 1996. He covered Venice and European travel at for 4-1/2 years before launching Europe for Visitors (including Venice for Visitors) with Cheryl Imboden in 2001.

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