Unwind at Forte Marghera: a tranquil green oasis only 10 minutes from Venice

There are times when you feel the need to escape the bustling streets of Venice, especially when it becomes too crowded or the sun is too intense. In that case, you might want to consider a visit to Forte Marghera in Mestre. Just a quick 10-minute tram ride from Piazzale Roma, this large fortification offers the ideal retreat. With its vast green spaces, it’s perfect for a leisurely walk, lounging on the grass with a good book, or simply unwinding. Plus, you can enjoy a drink or a meal in this serene setting, making it a great way to spend a couple of hours away from the city’s hustle and bustle.

In this post, I will share the history of the site, highlight what you can do and provide details on how to get there.


Forte Marghera is one of the largest fortifications of the naval defense line around Venice and the oldest and most majestic of Mestre. It is strategically located at the border of the Venetian lagoon.

The construction started around 1800 and was finished in 1814. The fortification is star-shaped with simple bastioned forts and buildings made of stone and bricks. It has three concentric lines of defense separated by artificial ditches filled with water from the lagoon.

By the beginning of the 20th century, the defense function disappeared, and the fort was transformed into a warehouse and logistics center for the Italian Army. It supplied and dispatched equipment to all military settlements in the Northeast. Several buildings were added with a pure operational function (such as warehouses and offices), but without any architectural value. As a result, the site of approx. 50,000 m² and 17,300 m² of buildings looks very similar to a citadel.

When the Italian Army stopped using Forte Marghera in 1995, the site got abandoned and deteriorated. The city of Venice bought it and is gradually renovating the area. It is now used for events, exhibitions and educational activities. The Biennale for instance uses it since 2018 for its Special Projects.

What to do

After you have entered through the main gate, the first thing you might want to do, is make a walk around the site to explore the fortification. Some of the larger barracks are currently under renovation and covered with scaffolding, but there are plenty of other buildings spread all over the site.

As you proceed straight ahead, pass the first building, and you will come to an open space with several low buildings. The first one on the left is the Polveriera austriaca building, which now hosts one of the Special Projects of the Art Biennale 2024. You can not only admire the inside of the building, but also ten ceramic works by the Italian artist Nedda Guidi. They are very beautiful, and the neutral colors make them look fragile. Thanks to her use of innovative techniques, Nedda Guidi was fundamental to the evolution of contemporary ceramics. You don’t need a ticket for the Art Biennale and the entrance is free (closed on Mondays).

When you continue towards the waterfront and reach the small watch tower, you will see the sculpture ‘Stop Playing’ from Lorenzo Quinn which shows a hand with a slingshot holding the earth.

Keep left (and notice the setting of the toilets in the historical ‘Mezzi Antincendio’ fire brigade building) and cross the bridge to arrive in a vast green area next to one of the ditches. It’s perfect to relax so sit down, read a book or just enjoy the silence.

Once you finished exploring the site in different directions, you can head back to the entrance and enjoy a drink or a meal at La Dispensa del Forte. You can sit outside on the terrace, but there is also plenty of space inside. I had lunch there and it was delicious. The social cooperative who runs the restaurant facilitates the work integration  of people with disabilities, and aims at the inclusion of disadvantaged people both physically and mentally. There are also other bars nearby, but they were closed when I visited.

How to get there

Forte Marghera might seem far away, but in reality, it’s quite accessible and straightforward to get there. At Piazzale Roma, take tram 1 in the direction of Mestre and get off at the San Marco Forte Marghera stop. This ride only takes 10 minutes. You can use your vaporetto ticket as it’s the same transportation company (more info on tickets in my post ‘A practical how-to guide on transportation in Venice’.

When you get out of the tram, there are unfortunately no signs to Forte Marghera and you can’t see it, so you need to use Google Maps (address: Via Forte Marghera 30) or follow these instructions. When you get out of the tram, cross the tram rails and the street and go to the right. You will notice a rather new walking/cycling path after approx. 50 m. Follow that path which is already in the midst of the green area and you will come to another street. Cross it and continue to follow that street. There is a sign to Forte Marghera and the entrance is a bit further. The walk from the tram stop to the entrance is only 5 to 10 minutes.

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