Torcello, the neighbor island of Burano and a true oasis of tranquility, is certainly worth a visit and recommended to all „cultural“ and „gastronomic“ gourmets. This may surprise you due to its size (or tininess?) but in case you should visit Burano and instead of eating in one of the touristy osterie, you could have a try on the neighbor island (for instance in the Hollywood-star-visited Cipriani for those with a big purse; and in the Villa 600 just on the other street side). But also from a cultural point of view, the island has a lot to offer as you’ll find some of the oldest buildings in the lagoon on this tiny island …
Torcello’s (Turricellum) “historical birth” dates back to the period of Langobard invasion when the island got the place of refuge of Altinum’s (today: Altino) inhabitants and was – due to the longevity of the situation that also caused the flight of the bishop Paolo (taking with him all the treasures and relics from the diocese of Altinum)- declared new bishop’s see in the middle of the 7th century (till 1689) and on this occasion Isacco, the exarch of Ravenna, commissioned the construction of the basilica (in 639).
The basilica, rebuilt in 1008 and named (at the request of the new bishop Orso I Orseolo, son of the doge Pietro II Orseolo) Santa Maria Assunta, can be considered the oldest venetian-byzantine building in the laguna. The pompous byzantine mosaics refiguring, amongst others, the Last Judgement (Giudizio Universale) are of particular interest.
Torcello was not only the bishop’s see but housed also numerous glassblowing manufactories, the working of linen (the exclusivity of this profession was guaranteed to Torcello with a decree from 1272) and was considered one of the most important harbors in the venetian laguna. The ancient splendor of the island can be ascertained considering the fact that in 1795 737 noble houses were still residing on the island.
In the 15th century started the slow decline of the island due to the partial, then total, silting of the estuary mouths, the transformation of the area into a marsh and the malaria.
Besides the basilica you can admire the church S. Fosca Vergine whose actual structure is dating back to the 11th century (rebuilt to shelter the relics of the martyrs Fosca and Maura – from Sabratha/Afrika), the Campanile (church tower of the XIth century that, at the moment, is refurbished due to danger of collapse), Attila’s throne and the Devil’s Bridge.
How to get to Torcello:
Line 12 from Fondamente Nove to Burano/Punta Sabbioni
Line 9 from Burano (get off the vaporetto and turn right; the stop is 50meters awaz) to Torcello