Torcello was founded in the 5th century by Roman citizens, fleeing successive waves of invading barbarians on the Mainland. With the nearby islands of Burano and Mazzorbo, it was the first serious lagoon settlement and, by the 10th century, was home to the most important bazaar for eastern trade, the Emporion mega. As the Rialto community grew in importance, Torcello became a centre for enclosed religious communities.
Today, all that remains of past glories are an 11th century church and the great basilica of Santa Maria Assunta, the Square Bel Tower and the Roman Baptistery, believed to be the most ancient building still visible in the Lagoon.
Island services comprise a handful of scattered restaurants, a couple of hotels, and the world famous restaurant Locanda da Cipriani.