Torcello the wild island
Did you know that Ernest Hemingway stayed in Torcello, in the hotel-restaurant Locanda Cipriani? Charles and Diana also came here, as well as Elton John, Giscard d'Estain, Elizabeth II and the Queen Mother, Charlie Chaplin, Warren Beatty, Sandra Bullock, Nureyev, Gabbana, Ruppert Everett, Chagall, de Palma, and many many more. They therefore have a striking collection of paints and drawings from some of these personalities.
Locanda Cipriani is one of those places full of photographs and history that have managed to keep their authenticity, surely because it is on a tiny island almost in the middle of nowhere.
(full disclosure, I am not affiliated in any way, only sharing informations)
Cradle of Venice
When you arrive in Torcello, it sure looks desolated although it is the cradle of Venice.
Some 1500 years ago, mainland inhabitants of Altino fleed to the Venetian island to escape the Huns. Torcello was once heavily populated but it did not impact much the landscape. What you see there is how Venice looked like before it was inhabited.
From some 20 000 souls, the number of inhabitants went down to less than a hundred, this mainly because settlers left Torcello for the actual Venice.
Anyway, this explains why there are very important buildings on such a empty place.
To go to the tiny village, basically made of one street, you first follow a canal, wondering if it is the right direction. No worries, it is.
At the entrance of Torcello, right next to the restaurant Taverna Tipica Veneziana, which is a great place for kids, there is a path leading to an art museum. Andrich House is a Museum-house that can be visited through a 50 minutes guided tour in italian, English and French. It is where the artists Lucio Andrich and Clementina De Luca. It is a great way to discover one of the few local homes in a part of the island almost nobody goes to.
You won't die of hunger or thirst in Torcello, there are almost more restaurants than homes. There is also a cash dispenser.
Ponte del Diavolo
The Devil's Bridge is a beautiful wafer-thin span of brick-and-stone without railings built in the 15th century (restored in 2008)
There are many explanations about its nickname, the most logical being the corruption of "Diavoli," the name of a local family.
But because of its aspect, this was too simple so rumours started and legends started to be build around it. And, as often, the Devil was involved.
During the Austrian occupation of Venice (1797–1849), a local girl fell in love with a young Austrian officer, but her parents forbade them to see one another. Because they kept meeting, they had the Austrian killed.
The girl approached a witch who made a deal with the Devil on her behalf: Return the boy to life in exchange for seven fresh new souls of children.
Whilst the devil held up his end of the bargain, and the lovers were reunited, the witch did not. She asked for another week but died before the ultimatum expired. So it is said that, on moonless nights, the Devil continues to come to the foot of this bridge on moonless nights, waiting for his due.
Another legend says that the Devil built the bridgel to win a bet. The lack of rails giving the feeling that the bridge was built in a hurry probably influenced this story.
Some houses with typical chimney.
This is where all the historical treasures of the island are.
Not at all Attila's throne but most probably belonging to a local officer.
Palazzo del Consiglio and Torcello's Museum
This building was built around 1400 in Gothic style as the seat of government of the island. It constitutes the Torcello's Museum with the nearby building of the Archives where one will find archaeological remains found on the island. Right next to the Archives, there is a souvenir shop.
The Basilica of Santa Maria Assunta was commissioned in 639. It is a real masterpiece of Venetian-Byzantine art. It hosts outstanding Byzantine mosaics dated from the 11th- to 12th-century. Beware that photos are not allowed. Please respect that.
Because of the muddy land present in the Venice area, crypts are really rare. There is one here that can be visited.
According to a legend, the tomb hidden in the once secret passageway in the sacristy contained the body of Mark the Evangelist brought with them to Torcello by the inhabitants of Altino during their escape from the mainland.
It is said to have been hidden there until San Marco Basilica was completed.
Church of Santa Fosca
Beautiful but spare 11th-century Greek cross church dedicated to Sta Fosca, a martyr from Ravenna. It completes the complex made of the cathedral, the Oratorio di San Marco and the Baptistry.
The rest of the island looks like the bayou. Hard to imagine Venice was once like this.
Do not feed birds. I know it is tempting but it makes them opportunistic and sick.