Posted by: Debra Kolkka | November 19, 2011

Torcello, the birthplace of Venice


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.


  1. Thank you for your quality photos, after viewing them I feel like I’ve had a nice refreshing passagiata around Torcello, what a great eye you have.

    • Thank you for your comments. This was my first time to Torcello. I’m so glad I went there, it is so different from the rest of Venice.

  2. God, I have got to get to Italy soon. Hard to believe I have never been there. Thanks for these amazing images, Deb———–and have a great weekend.

    • Thank you. The weather here is still great. Only 2 weeks left of lovely Italy.

  3. Thank you for the trip to Torcello and your wonderful pictures. We were there many years ago and found it had an extra bit of magic to it. We walked down that path after getting off the ferry and had lunch at a restaurant where a wedding reception was being held. It gave the island another dimension.
    Your pictures of the Cathedral mosaics are superb.
    When you go to Torcello you are really hugging history.

    • Torcello is such an unexpected part of Venice. I love the busy islands as well, but this one is special.

  4. What beautiful photos, brought back happy memories from 2008, you are right Debra, Torcello is a hidden gem in Venice. We have visited Venice many times, and were last there this October but we stayed on the Lido this time, we were only there 3 nights as we were also going on to Rome. My 50th birthday celebrations, we travelled in style between the 2 fantastic cities on the Orient Express – it is certainly a birthday I won’t forget in a hurry, watching the Italian countryside go by in style!

    • Lucky you! The Orient Express sounds like fun.

    • OMG, lucky you! I so want to do the Orient express some day, I have been dreaming of Paris to Venice and a stay at the Cipriani since I was a child.

  5. The most delicious meals we have ever eaten was at the Locanda Cipriani on Torcello- a beautiful old farmhouse now a restaurant run by the Cipriani family of Venice’s famed Cipriani Hotel on Giudecca opposite Piazza San Marco. We had the most amazing lunch with views over the gardens and the old church tower-thanks for the memories of a special day on Torcello!

    • Now I need to go back to have lunch at Cipriani. We passed it, but we had just had lunch on Burano.

  6. Your pictures are extraordinary Debra! What an amazing esthetic talent Italians have – everything is so beautiful there. It is just lovely – I can’t find words to describe what I feel… Thank you so much.

    • I love the brown/red house beside the canal. I must have taken a dozen photos of it. They manage to make even ramshackle look elegant.

  7. Venice without tourists eh? Brilliant!

    • Who would have thought it possible?

  8. Beautiful photos and a lovely topic. It was terrible for Torcello that the lagoon around it became a swamp and malaria started to cause many deaths. This sealed its fate, Venice took over as they did not have the same problem. It’s just fate…. Fortunately, we can still admire its art treasures and its melancholy beauty.

    • It is a beautiful place to visit. It is sad to think of the terrible time people must have had when things went bad.

  9. Once again, I wanted to acknowledge your passion for bloging and the joy it brings for me to go on “little adventures”, as you share your own stories and adventures. Very inspiring work/photography!

    • Thank you. Writing the blog has made me much more observant of my surroundings.

  10. Wow. Here I sit, tucked up in bed, absolutely awe struck by your adventures. Your mind must surely be in a flurry after experiencing a place such as this. Nab that last pomegranate and pop it in to the fridge, it’ll last months still. Gorgeous artwork, gorgeous photos. I cannot wait to experience this part of the world.

    • I just happen to have a couple of pomegranates in my kitchen right now.

  11. Thanks Debra for bringing back beautiful memories of Torcello. Years ago we too celebrated a friend’s birthday sitting in the beautiful garden of Locanda Cipriani. Wandering around the island after lunch was a perfect finish to the day before returning to the hustle and bustle of the mainland.

    • I really do have to go to Cipriani now, a few people have mentioned it.

  12. So lovely to see the familiar picture of Torcello. We too, experienced the fun of exploring the island a couple of years ago…definately one to visit!.

    We had luch at Locanda Cipriani as part of the Riva group where we were an organised flotilla of historic woodern boats and took about 30 of the vintage boats over to Torcello for a day. We still have our lovely Italian Riva and often take in out around the Hawkesberry north of Sydney.

    Thankyou Debra for a wonderful post.

    • I like the sound of the vintage boats in the canal. If you do it again can I come?

  13. I will make it to Italy one day. I just have to see these beautiful things up close! šŸ˜®

  14. What a lovely place! Is there a B+B or a hotel, or is too small?

    • Locanda Cipriani is in Piazza Santa Fosca. Their email address is The telephone number is (39) 041730150 I’m sure it would be lovely.

      • Thank you! Hope I didn’t miss that in the original.


      • No problem. I didn’t have it on the post, because I investigated after several comments from those who have been there.

  15. So beautiful! I’d never heard of Torcello. Now I have to add that to the list of places I want to visit in Italy list.

    • I’m sure you will love Torcello.

  16. What a wonderful blog! My husband and I are pondering what our retirement will look like – Italy is a definite possibility. Your photos are such inspiration!

    I love the one with the man and the wheelbarrow full of flowers.

    • Thank you. I spend about 6 months a year in Italy. I can recommend it.

  17. Yes Debra…would love to see you there! It is exciting to see Italy through another ‘s eyes.
    One of the best moments, on another day we took the boats (which had to be approved prior to the event) along the Grand Canal. It was a carnival atmosphere with a enormous white cruising ship moored just off the Doge Palace. Just as we arrived the bells began to toll. It was a moment in my life I will never forget.
    The next one is on Largo D’Iseo 2012 Yes? šŸ™‚

    • Venice is a magical place. I was in St Marco one afternoon when a 10 minute storm came through. Afterwards the square was bathed in a golden light – gorgeous.
      Where is Largo D’Iseo?

  18. we only went to the known piazza san marco when we were in Venice. i’m sure all of it is very beautiful, as is all Italy.

    • St Marco is a beUtiful part of Venice. Perhaps next time you will see more.

  19. Italy is the place I miss the most in Europe (I worked on the Amalfi Coast and in Rome for a while) so it was lovely to go through your photographs.. and the light from the Med was so crisp. I have not been to Venice, this will be for next time.. thank you debra.. celi

    • I used to live near Sorrento many years ago. I went there a few weeks ago to visit family. I have hundreds of photos to go through from the area. There will be more posts soon on the south.

  20. It was a wonderful experience Deb and an addition to our experience in Ravenna.

    • The mosaics in the church were amazing- quite similar to those in Ravenna

  21. Largo D’ Iseo is also a beautiful lake located in the Lombardy region, north east of Milan between Bergamo and Brescia in the lakes area, but east of Lake Como.

  22. […] and for some lovely gondolas click here, and for the gorgeous Venetian island of Torcello click here. GA_googleAddAttr("AdOpt", "1"); GA_googleAddAttr("Origin", "other"); […]

  23. […] have given Venice its own category. Look there for more on this incredible place. Click here to see the island of Torcello, a completely different Venice. Share this:ShareEmailPrintFacebookLike […]

  24. Beautiful, beautiful post Debra. Had lunch on Torcello a few years ago… of our best Venice experiences.

    • Torcello was a big surprise. I would go back in a heartbeat.

  25. […] here to get lost in Venice with us, and here for the lovely island of Torcello, a big surprise in Venice. Take a look in the Venice category for […]

  26. […] here to see Torcello, another gorgeous island in the Venice lagoon, quite different from […]

  27. Thank you for suggesting this post. I like to read all I can before visiting a place. This looks so different than other areas around Venice…so lovely. I will share this also on my FB page.

    • I have done several posts on Venice including some suggestions for eating in Venice…..look in the Venice category.

      • I will take a look at your other posts and make notes of your suggestions. Thank you

  28. Beautiful, beautiful post Debra. I read in another review that Torcello is nothing great and is planning to give it a miss. Chance on your blog and just in time to change my mind. I will try my very best to see it in Dec!

    • It might be a bit desolate in December. Make sure the church is open before you go. We were there in November last year and loved the island. Burano is a must see and Torcello is not far from there. Have a great time in Venice. There are a few other posts in the Venice category.

  29. […] to be one of the very best things you can do. I also love the less visited islands of Burano and Torcello. We usually take the train to Venice and stay for a couple of night and just wander…getting […]

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