Everyone knows that water is what makes Venice unique. It’s all part of its myth and charm – the Serenessima floats in the middle of the lagoon, with only a strip of land connecting it to the mainland.
Its streets are canals. Its cars are vaporettos and gondolas. And that, mixed with the stunning buildings left behind by over a millennium of history, might make it hard to think of Venice as a city with green spaces to enjoy.
And yet, Venice has no shortage of city parks where you can stop your stroll and relax among the trees. Here are some of the best.
These gardens, located not far from Piazzale Roma and Venice’s main train station, Santa Lucia, can boast of having their fair share of history since they were commissioned by the Counts of Papadopoli in 1834. Their form has definitely changed with the bombing of WWII and the expansion of the city, but they can still offer a wide variety of trees for anyone who wants to take a break from palaces and bridges and enjoy calm without rushing – or to climb and swing, as it also has a play area for children.
Every Italian city that has ever been the seat of a duchy, principality or kingdom has royal gardens, and Venice is no exception. The Giardini Reali de la Serenissima are located in its most popular area, right next to Saint Mark’s Square. Napoleon is the one who ordered them, but after his exile, it was the Austrians who took over the project and brought it to fruition, making the gardens a pleasant space for the court. After a few years of renovations, the gardens have regained their chic and neat splendor, ready to be enjoyed – just like the cafe originally planned by Napoleon, where you can stop for a quick espresso (and maybe a few Instagram photos).
Fairly close to Santa Lucia Station, Parco Savorgnan is beautifully encapsulated in the historic buildings of the Cannaregio district. Think of New York’s Central Park, but make it smaller and older, since the park’s earliest plans were drawn around the 17th century. It was a very common type of green space when it was first created, and it has only grown richer over the centuries – with statues, fountains, and neat romantic landscaping. It could be a great stopover on the way to the city center from the train station, a chance to rest your feet by sitting among the trees which saw the history of the Serenissima unfold.
Giardini della Biennale
The name of Napoleon also returns in the history of these gardens, since their construction was ordered at the same time as that of the Giardini Reali. At the end of the 19th century, however, the area was donated to the foundation that organized the Biennale exhibition – and the international art exhibition became inextricably linked with the gardens, and vice versa. As you stroll through the gardens today, you can see thirty pavilions belonging to different countries of the world – when the Biennale takes place, this is where the works of art are exhibited. But even when it’s not a Biennale year, you can still see the pavilions and explore their sometimes centuries-old history – like that of the Belgian Pavilion, which was the first to be built in the gardens at the turn of the 20th century.
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Parc delle Rimembranze
Also known as Pineta di Sant’Elena, the pine forest of Sant’Elena, this huge park is located on the island of the same name and just one bridge from the Biennale district. Facing the seafront, La Pineta is the ideal place to reach when one wants to spend time under the pines, looking at the sea and the breathtaking landscapes of the city. Like the Giardini Papadopoli, the Pineta di Sant’Elena is also equipped with a children’s playground.
San Giuliano Park
It is true that what most people think of when they imagine Venice is only the part of the city that floats on the lagoon, but the mainland is only a bridge away and is an integral part of the great Venice region. So if you’re intrigued by somewhere outside of the usual downtown routes, you can take a day off and head to Parco San Giuliano in Mestre, the last town on the continent before the Venice Bridge. A huge 74 hectare (183 acre) green space designed primarily as an area for the preservation of flora and fauna, Parco San Giuliano is also well equipped for outdoor activities such as skating, cycling and football. . If you want to plan a day out with your family and friends, this is definitely a place you need to keep in mind.