It is hard to believe when you set foot on the tiny, largely uninhabited island in the Venetian lagoon, that there were once 10,000 people living here. Torcello is the oldest continuously inhabited island in Venice. Venice’s first cathedral, first houses and first workshops were all on Torcello.
Its heyday was the 10th century, but by the 12th century its lagoon had turned to swamp and the focus moved to other islands and Torcello was abandoned. Many of the buildings were dismantled and the materials carried off to be recycled.
A ferry takes you across a short stretch of water from Burano. Torcello could not be more different from the crowded streets around St Marco and Rialto.
The path from the ferry follows a canal which leads directly to the tiny centre. There are a few buildings along the path, a couple of houses and a handful of bars and restaurants to cater for the inquisitive tourists who make their way here.
If you had a boat you could sail right into the restaurant.
We didn’t have a boat, so we walked in for a coffee. The beautiful garden was being made ready for winter. It seemed a shame to pull out the pretty flowers, but pansies were going in so it wasn’t all bad.
The last of the pomegranates.
The main attraction on Torcello is the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta, founded in 639. Most of the remaining building is from the 11th and 12th centuries.
The interior is incredible and similar in style to Ravenna’s Saint Apollonare Nuovo.
The central apse of the Cathedral, features the virgin and child, one of the most amazing works of Byzantine art in Italy. I wish you could see the shine on the gold tiles here.
The mosaics on the counter- facade depict the last judgement.
I particularly loved the floor, part of which dates back to 1008. Most of the floor (the new bit) is from the 13th century.
Next door to the Cathedral is the Church of Santa Fossa, a much less decorated building. The exterior is quite lovely.
There is a museum housed in a very cute building with a courtyard filled with interesting items.
A very pretty vineyard sits beside the cathedral. Even in autumn when the leaves are beginning to fall it looked inviting.
The antique shop was full of gorgeous things, as was the garden nearby. Unfortunately they were closed when we were there.
There are lots of cats on the island. Somebody seems to be looking after them.
There is also a bell tower, but it is under repair at the moment and we were unable to climb to the top. Next time perhaps.
If you go to Venice, don’t miss Torcello.
Take the traghetto from Fondamente Nova, stop 12, to Burano and from there you can take the traghetto across to Torcello.
Waiting for the ferry.
Looking back towards Burano.