Exploring Torcello, Venice’s Most Deserted Island

 

A popular day-trip for visitors to Venice is the three-island boat tour to Murano, Burano and Torcello, the most popular islands in the Venice lagoon. My friend and I boarded the tour one morning for this much anticipated day’s outing.

Our first stop was Murano, the most famous of the small islands and the most visited. This is where the famous “Murano Glass” is created. We enjoyed a short half-hour walk around the glass-makers shops, then boarded the boat again for our next stop, Burano a pretty little fishing village famous for lace-making. Burano is the most picturesque island with clusters of pastel-colour houses along the canals.

Colorful Burano

Colorful Burano

Half an hour later we were on our way to Torcello, the least populated island and virtually deserted.  But it was here that we spent a most memorable afternoon. We wanted to visit the famous churches of Torcello and decided to opt out on the return boat trip in order to stay and explore.

Quiet Torcello

Quiet Torcello

The island is pastoral and green. A myriad of singing birds trill from the trees. There are signs of renewal and restoration. It’s a pleasant island to explore and take a relaxing walk. Be sure and visit the Devil’s Bridge, Ponte del Diavlo, but be careful as there’s no side railings!

Devils Bridge on Torcello

Devils Bridge on Torcello

Torcello was one of the first lagoon islands populated by Venetians who fled the mainland after the barbarian invasions of Attila the Hun. Founded in the 5th century, it was once the commercial capital of Venice and the home of 20,000 people. But due to silt in the canals, plagues, malaria and other epidemics which killed off most of the population, the city was abandoned. Today, less than 100 people live there. Now, much of the island is a nature reserve accessible by walking paths.

Old building on Torcello

Old building on Torcello

Torcello is most famous for the very old Cathedral of Santa Maria Dell’Assunta built in 639. Its 11th century bell tower dominates the skyline of the island. From the boat dock, the path leads to the cathedral, a short walk away. This cathedral is one of the first built with the skills of Greek stone masons who did the Byzantine mosaics in the interior including an impressive depiction of The Last Judgement. The cathedral’s beautiful Mosaic of the Madonna is in the semi-dome of the apse, set on a pure gold background.

Cathedral of Santa Maria Dell’Assunta

Cathedral of Santa Maria Dell’Assunta

Next to the cathedral is the 11th century Church of Santa Fosca which is surrounded by a portico in the form of a Greek cross. We stopped in to see the small Torcello Museum housed in a 14th century mansion across from the cathedral, and posed for pictures on the large stone throne in the courtyard known as Attila’s Throne or ‘the bishop’s chair.’

One of the highlights of our day on Torcello was our lunch at the beautiful Ristorante Villa 600 which is housed in a building dating to the 1600’s, We sat outdoors in sun, waited on by a most charming, handsome waiter. He recommended items from the menu for us: campari starters, sea food antipasto, ricotta with scampi, and a bottle of excellent red wine. For dessert, crème brule. An unbelievably decadent meal! We paid 50 Euros each for this gourmet extravaganza but it was worth every delicious mouthful.

Enjoying lunch at Restorante Villa

Enjoying lunch at Restorante Villa

Our stop-over on Torcello turned out to be one of the highlights of our Venice holiday. We caught another vaporetto for the return trip, stopping for awhile at the Lido.

Written by W. Ruth Kozak for EuropeUpClose.com

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