Torcello is an island in the Lagoon inhabited since the first centuries of the Roman Empire. It was probably settled by the Altini, a population from the mainland, fleeing from waves of invading Longobards. The Altini brought with them great wealth: building materials and relics of saints.
With the islands of Burano and Mazzorbo, it was the first lagoon settlement. From the 10th century it hosted the most important bazaar with the East, making Torcello known as Emporion mega. The first real historical record is found in the 639 inscription in Torcello Cathedral, making the island one of the first settlements in the Venice Lagoon.
As the community of Rialto grew in importance through trade, Torcello became a centre of cloistered religious communities. Torcello also lost its splendour due to its location in a marshy area where the risk of pestilence increased. These problems drove the population of the island of Torcello towards Venice and the mainland.
Even if today Torcello is inhabited by only a dozen people, you will have an enriching experience. We recommend a visit to the Basilica of Santa Maria Assunta built in about 639 making it one of the very first buildings on the lagoon. This minor basilica remained a cathedral until the suppression of the Torcello diocese in 1818, making it a parish church. The basilica is in early Christian style with a magnificent bell tower. A unique feature are the stone shutters on the windows. Also in the complex of the Basilica of Santa Maria Assunta we recommend the Church of Santa Fosca near the remains of the baptistery.
If you visit Torcello cross the famous Ponte del Diavolo (Devil's Bridge) which, together with Ponte Chiodo di Cannaregio, is one of the bridges without a parapet.
If you love history and would like to deepen your visit to Torcello we recommend a visit to the Torcello museum.
Torcello may have lost the splendour of the early 17th century but it is still a destination worth visiting. If you have time and would like to take a step back in time, visit Torcello.