Mestre (pronounced May-stray) is the mainland town connected to Venice by rail and road bridges over the lagoon. Mestre is everything Venice isn’t: modern, ugly, traffic-filled, ordinary. Administratively it is part of Venice (Venezia); a kind of mainland suburb. However it has a history as a separate town, and it has a very different character.
Mestre’s history goes back to the Middle Ages, though it was always overshadowed by its powerful neighbour Venice. Unlike Venice, it had no lagoon to protect it, and the fortifications here were battled over, conquered, destroyed and rebuilt in the warring and squabbling that went on throughout mainland Italy for centuries. Even after the town was taken over by Venice in the fourteenth century, it was still at the mercy of occasional attacks from Venice’s enemies.
In the 1920s Mestre was absorbed into the Comune di Venezia, losing separate status as a town. But despite the loss of administrative autonomy, Mestre found itself becoming a focus for migrants. During the 1920s and 1930s a big port and industrial complex was developed on the shores of the lagoon at Porto Marghera, aiming to boost the local economy. Mestre, right next door, grew as workers arrived from all over Italy needing somewhere to live. The 1960s and 1970s saw a rapid growth as local Venetians opted to move over the water. Mestre was still administered from Venice, which is perhaps why there seems to have been little planning control over the ugly housing and industrial developments springing up all around town. The population grew to over 200,000. Nowadays the town has worked at creating more of an identity for itself, but to visitors it is still a brutal residential twin to neighbouring Porto Marghera, the industrial port complex which so horrifies the new arrival in Venice.
Today the population of this mainland conurbation is nearly three times that of island Venice. Basically, Mestre offered – and still offers – the kind of life many Italians want. Here they can live in modern houses or apartments, with space for their children to play. They can drive cars or go cycling. In their thousands they escaped from poky dark flats at threat from high water and rising damp and chose the brave new world of modern Mestre. There were jobs too, working at the busy industrial docks. Nowadays in the daytime the flow is reversed: many of Venice’s workers – even her gondoliers – commute in each day from Mestre. If you are at Piazzale Roma in the early morning you’ll see them; lots of full-blooded Venetians pouring off buses into the city of their ancestors, heading along those inconvenient canals to work in hotels, souvenir shops and restaurants: to service the every-expanding tourist industry which has nearly taken over Venice.
It’s not rare to have snow in Mestre during winter time; strange was the snow storm on Monday March 19. No other areas around Venice had the same condition…
Starting from 7:00am
with people moving to work
recovering with coloured umbrella
But having also some logistic difficulties
The storm stopped soon leaving about 7 cm of snow on the street; not enough to have big traffic problems.
All the shots with Leica M9-P, Leica Tri Elmar MATE (28-50-35), f4.
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