Monday, October 21, 2019

VENICE, ITALY: Torcello and the Outer Islands

View of Torcello and the Venice Lagoon from the top of the Bell Tower 
During our recent visit to Venice, we spent a day on Torcello, one of the small outer islands of the greater Venice archipelago. The large island at the center that we know as Venice has been a trading center in the northern Mediterranean for more than a thousand years. Densely built and intersected by a maze of canals, it hums with activity. By comparison, our visit to Torcello felt like a day in the country--the island is mostly open fields and wetlands plus an old church and museum.
Torcello vaporetto stop. Torcello is of 114 small islands spread across the Venice Lagoon.
To get to Torcello we took a vaporetto (water bus) from the Zattere stop near our hotel to the Fondamente Nove stop on other side of Venice, where we transferred to a boat that went on Torcello. The first stop was at Murano, home of the Venetian glassware industry, and where most of the passengers got off. On our first trip to Venice we had visited Murano, watched the glassblowers and visited the museum. 
Walkway to the center of Torcello and the Ponte di Diavolo (Devil's Bridge)
The “town” of Torcello is just a few houses, a church and museum. To get there we walked about a quarter mile from the boat dock along a paved path next to a small canal.
Torcello. Church of Santa Fosca
When we bought our tickets for the church and museum, the ticket seller recommended that we visit the bell tower first.
At the top of the Campanile (Bell Tower)
So we climbed the stairs to the top, where we were rewarded with a spectacular 360 degree view of the island and surrounding lagoon. It was easy to imagine that this is what the main island of Venice might have looked like in Roman times, before it was developed into an urban trading center.
Roof of the Basilica as seen from the Bell Tower
The church at Torcello, Basilica di Santa Maria Assunta, has been in existence since the 7th century,  and is the oldest church in the greater Venice lagoon. It is filled with magnificent mosaics, which are explained with an audio device that we paid for with our ticket. After visiting the church we went to the museum where artifacts from Torcello’s Byzantine past are displayed. (Photography was not permitted in either place.)
At the Ponte de Diavolo restaurant with our Aperol spritzers
Our destination for the day was the Osteria al Ponte del Diavolo restaurant, which had been recommended by a friend, and where we had a delicious lunch. (I had baby octopus for my first course!) The weather was perfect and we sat under an umbrella on the restaurant patio enjoying our leisurely meal. By the time we had finished our coffee and tiramisu dessert, it was time to catch the boat back.
On our way back from Torcello to Murano, we passed the small island of Burano, distinctive for its  brightly painted houses.
A woman in the seat next to me commented about Torcello that “there wasn’t much there.” I disagree. That’s exactly what we liked about it–a refreshing ride across the lagoon, a fascinating old church, and a relaxing day in the country.

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