Torcello – Venice, Italy - Atlas Obscura


The small peaceful island off the Venice tourist circuit is where the city began more than 1,500 years ago. 

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After you have visited all of the mandatory sites in Venice, you may want to spend some time in a more laid-back, peaceful atmosphere. Torcello is a small island in the North Lagoon of Venice, just beyond Burano and Murano, and it has a rich history. Torcello is believed to be where the city of Venice began more than 1,500 years ago.

Once heavily populated, with over 20,000 residents, Torcello rivaled Venice as the primary port and trading center in the region. Unfortunately for Torcello, their canals started to silt up, leading to shipping declines and massive mosquito outbreaks. Most residents left for Venice to escape malaria and to find employment. They also took the stones from their houses with them leaving just a handful of structures and the basilica behind. The island now has less than a dozen full-time residents.

The primary attractions include a Byzantine-Italian cathedral, the Basilica di Santa Maria Assunta, and an adjacent church complete with a campanile (bell tower) that, with an easy climb, offers a great view of the entire area. There is also a small archaeological museum occupying the old council chambers.


Know Before You Go

You can reach Torcello from Venice on the Number 12 vaporetto (water bus) line, which also serves nearby Murano and Burano. Check the schedule.

Entry to the basilica costs €5 with an €4 to climb the bell tower. Be aware that there may be no ATMs on the island during the off season so it's best to withdraw cash beforehand.

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