Isola Torcello, Venice
The last stop on our cruise was Torcello. It is believed that this island was the very first island in the lagoon to be populated, probably around the 5th century A.D. It once had a population of over 10,000 people and was considered the most important island in terms of economic and religious significance. However, around the 12th century, part of the lagoon surrounding Torcello along with the island's canals gradually turned into a swamp, making navigation impossible. The population had to relocate to other islands (most of them ended up in Venice) and Torcello was for all intents and purposes abandoned.
As we made our way along Torcello's only canal, we found it hard to believe there once lived several thousands of people on the island (only a few dozens live there now). When people left the island, the numerous palazzi that existed on Torcello were taken apart to fill the need for building material on other islands. Except for a handful of restaurants and a few villas, the whole island is pretty much deserted, which somehow makes it a very romantic place. The canal leads straight to the historic cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta and the church of Santa Fosca. The cathedral dates back to the 7th century, which makes it one of the oldest buildings in the entire Venitian lagoon area. It costs 5 Euros to visit Santa Maria Assunta and admire its amazing Byzantine architecture, including the 11th century "Last Judgement" mosaic that covers an entire wall of the cathedral. I thought it was pretty neat that when we were there, there was a group of arts students sitting in different parts of the cathedral, obviously working on an assignment. I took a quick look at what some of them were drawing, and it made me realize how rich and unique the architecture was in this building.
For those who'd rather not pay to visit the cathedral, the church of Santa Fosca is open to visitors free of charge. Other attractions on the island include a stone throne that is referred to as "Attila's throne", although no proof exists that the leader of the Huns ever sat on it, a small archeological museum, which we didn't have time to visit, and a small "Ponte del Diavolo" (Devil's Bridge) over the canal.
It was still early in the morning when we took the boat from Burano to Torcello. It's only a ride of about ten minutes and you can see the bell tower of Torcello coming closer.
This island is really small.In March 2007 construction work was going on and we couldn't go straight ahead to the village. We were being redirected on a path around, through gardens and very close to the water. It was very quiet and seemed ages away from San Marco's.
There is an old Romanesque church in Torcello, free of charge and interesting to see. In the front of it there are stones , showing coat-of -arms of (I think) families from Torcello. You can see the winged Venetian lion and a very pretty one with three dolphins.
Next to this church there is the Basilica di Santa Maria dell'Assunta. Here you have to pay an entrance fee, either for the basilica alone, or in combination with the bell tower or the museum. We chose the basilica and the bell tower and paid 5,50 Euro each, for each of us I mean, not for each of the buildings.
It's absolutely worth it! The basilica is beautiful inside, with one of the largest mosaics I have ever seen. Showing the last judgement, set against a golden background, it is simply overwhelming. I later learned that it is one the most beautiful Byzantine mosaics in Italy and I certainly believe that.
From the bell tower we had seen a footpath, going along the water. Since we had enough time - it's great not being pressured for time when on vacation! - we decided to follow this path for a while. It was so narrow, that we had to walk behind each other. We passed some goats, enjoying their lunch, saw some butterflies, but no other people.
When we turned around, we had a great view of the bell tower and the two churches.
The footpath starts behind the bell tower, there is water right and left to it.It must be very muddy when it's raining.You can see the path on the second picture, in the lower right corner.
When the bell tower was built, nobody thought of tourists going up there for fun. The staircase is quite narrow and when people are walking up and down at the same time, you may have some problems. Yet another reason to be there early, before the crowds.
I had a wonderful view from the tower. The lagoon was spread out all around, the snow-covered mountains could be seen on the horizon, the towers of Venice appeared, it was a spectacular view.
If the weather is nice, this is a "climb" which I would certainly recommend.
The island of Torcello. A five minute Vaporetto ride from Burano, this small rustic island is the home to the beautiful Cathedral of Santa Assunta and St. Fosca church. Only about 100 people live on Torcello.
Torcello was the first inhabited island of the lagoon.... Starting from the 5th century, people from Altino and sorroundig areas (on the mainland, not far from Torcello), when the fall of the western Roman empire opened the road to frequent barbarian invasions, was looking for shelter. What could be better for them than a muddy lagoon, where the barbarian crowds (all coming from the deep continent, and not at all friendly with boats) could not follow them?
So Torcello became an import town (and so you can explain the 2 romanesque churches of Santa Maria Assunta and Santa Fosca --- see the roof and bell tower in the picture).
Later on, people started moving from the wooden homes of Torcello to another place... Fisrt to Malamocco and then.. Rialto (rivus altus.-deep river -. along the ancient river that is now the Grand Canal).
The actual Venice was born.
Now, apart the churches, Torcello is famous for the restaurants... 3 of them and 1 famous and pricey... La Locanda Cipriani.
A few minutes far from Burano (Torcello is close enough to see from Burano), is situated Torcello, known its beautiful churches and for its millennial history. Its small museum contains the historical traces of the island.
Torcello has only 100 inhabitants, but around the 5th century it was a very important place and had a population of 20,000!!. There are a couple of outstanding churches to visit - Church of Santa Maria Assunta and the Church of Santa Fosca. The Church of Santa Maria Assunta has one of the walls completely covered with a wonderful Byzantine mosaic.
One of the earlier settlements in the lagoon, Torcello still retains its rustic and undeveloped beauty. Upon approach on the No. 12 vaporetto, the campanile of the Cattedrale di Santa Maria Assunta rises above all. The cathedral was founded in the 7th century with most of the current structure built in the 9th and 11th centuries. The highlights are the huge mosaics. The graphic Last Judgement covers the entire back wall opposite the apses. And the beautiful Madonna in the central apse.
Well, I think this must be one of the most quiet places in the laguna. There are only 50 people still living in on this island! Torcello has 2 beautiful churches worth a visit. If you'd like to see what Torcello looks llike, then don't hesitate to have a look at my Torcello page!
Anybody staying in Venice for a couple of days will probably want to tour the islands in the laguna. While Murano and Burano are the main destinations, it would be a shame if you miss Torcello. The vaporetto ride to get there departs from Burano and is less than 10 minutes. The island itself is a real haven of tranquility, It is very green and you wont have to walk a lot to get to the main attractions : the churches and the campanile (bell tower).
The main church holds one of the most impressive mosaic work I've seen and the view from the top of the bell tower is superb. If you are a bit tired, dont worry, the climb up the tower is not that bad (it's a sloped walkway with very few stairs). There are some restaurants/cafes too on the island and they are less crowded than the ones on Burano (but I have no idea about the quality as I did not eat there).
According to historians, Torcello is thought to have been one of the most populated island of the lagoon, even surpassing Venice. But a series of conflicts with its next door rival as well as plague and malaria stopped Torcello on its path to adriatic glory...
This is a very quiet and remote backwater. It is the furthest away of the northern lagoon Islands, about 50 minutes to 1 hour by boat. It's only a little further than Burano (10 minutes) and its worth visiting both of these islands. Torcello is largely uninhabited now, but was once the home of some 20,000 people. The church here was the first cathedral of Venice.
See the travelogue for more.
Torcello is a very layed back, calm island. We stopped there to take a break. The church of Santa Fosca, foundet in 639 BC, is the oldest building of the lagoon.
There also is a very odd object to be seen, it is the marble throne of Attila, king of the huns in the 5th century.
It was too late to have lunch, we just had a marvelous fish soup in Burano, otherwise I would have loved to eat in one of the two famous restaurants on Torcello. The locanda Cipriani(5*), they will gladly pick you up with a motorboat at Piazza San Marco, or the Osteria al Ponte del Diavolo, named after the bridge on the canal), part of the staff comes from the Cipriani in Venice, with assures the excellent quality.
Don't miss visiting TORCELLO.
A small isle in the middle of the lagoon, very very nice!
There are 2 churches: the cathedral and S.Fosca, which I like best...and which is a wonderful place where to merry..!!!
A magnificent Byzantine-Italian cathedral dating back to 639 A.D., the Basilica of Santa Maria Assunta, looms over the island with the Bell Tower and Church of Santa Fosca alongside.
Don't miss out on a visit to the islands, which are an integral part of the city history. Torcello was one of the first to be settled, and was then abandoned as it became unhealthy.