Consider an all-day guided excursion by boat along the Brenta Canal as far as Padua, including many of the most important Renaissance monuments en route. American Express (tel. 041-5200844) will sell you tickets for the Burchiello Excursion Boat. From March to October, trips depart from the piers at Venice's Piazza San Marco every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday at 9am for a ride that includes a running bilingual commentary from an onboard host. The price is 62€ ($81/£42) per person, plus 25€ ($33/£17) for an optional lunch in historic Oriago. You get glimpses of the elegant villas that seem to cling to the shorelines, guided visits through the evocative villas at Malcontenta and Oriago, and a somewhat rushed tour through the most spectacular sights of Padua after the boat docks. At 6:10pm, you board a bus for transit back to Venice.
You can tour the Brenta Riviera by buses leaving from Venice headed for Padua. The buses, operated by the ACTV line (tel. 041-2424), depart from the Venetian company's ticket office in Piazzale Roma daily every 15 to 30 minutes starting at 6:10am. A one-way ticket to Villa Foscari is 2.60€ ($3.40/£1.75) and a one-way fare to the Villa Pisani is 2.90€ ($3.75/£1.95).
By car, note that all villas open to the public are on the north bank of the canal along Route S11 headed west out of Venice toward Padua. At the APT in Venice, you can pick up the guide Riviera del Brenta Venezia, offering information on the villas and a map of their locations between Malcontenta and Stra.
Contact the APT tourist office of Villa Widmann, Via Nazionale 420, Mira (tel. 041-424973). From May to September, it's open Tuesday to Sunday 10am to 6pm; April and October Tuesday to Sunday 10am to 5pm; and November to March only Saturday and Sunday 10am to 5pm.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.