To get to Torcello I had to make a sacrifice. It was a big sacrifice becasue I only had one day in Venice, and a trip to Torcello takes nearly half a day. Looking back, some of the places that I have connected with the most are Byzantine, and this was no exception. It was a fast and easy decision for me. The jewel of Torcello is the Byzantine Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta. Founded in 639, the church is still home to Byzantrine mosaics that rival those in Ravenna.

Cathedral at Torcello

Some people may balk at a three hour travel time to Torcello in back, and at one point I almost changed my mind, but I stuck to my gut feeling that told me this was worth the trouble. After a train ride from my base in Bologna to Venice, I made my way straight to the ferry.The first stop is in Burano, where you change to a second ferry to Torcello. I couldn’t tell you anything about Burano, other than the houses are all the colors of the rainbow. I didn’t have a chance to explore the town because I didn’t want the want to miss the first ferry to my destination.

Torcello Santa Maria

After the ferry docks in Torcello, you’ll walk down a very unremarkable path for about ten minutes. At the end of the path is a sight that made the entire journey worthwhile. It was like that moment when Petra first shows herself at the end of the long walk down the siq. I was frozen in that moment, trying to take it all in. The structure is spectacular, yes, but it is not the structure alone that causes spine-tingling awe. That moment comes when you put the history together with the stones. When I think of what must have happened there, and who must have stood there,  I am excited beyond description. Those are the moments that I live for, and travel for. Torcllo Mosaics

I’m starting to notice a theme throughout my posts, deserted+cold+holidays, and/or super early = a really rewarding travel experience. One of the best things about my trip to Torcello was that the island was practically deserted.  I stayed there for about two hours, and I only saw two or three other people. Then again, it was two days after Christmas so that may have contributed to the lack of crowds. I’ve had a lot of travel success by venturing out when it is really cold, unbearably hot, early, or on some holidays. I thank the Army for that, always getting my up before dawn, sending me to places at odd times, and forcing me to miss several holidays over the years. You wouldn’t think that there’s a positive side to that, but here I am, six years later and (mostly) indifferent to weather, cold, and sleep. By no means do I punish myself like that on a regular basis, but it’s definitely worth being uncomfortable for a little while, or missing a few hours of sleep to see that special place on the “to do” list. That’s my number one piece of advice for my fellow travelers and adventurers, don’t be afraid to do your own thing, and go against the grain, because more often than not, you will be rewarded rather than disappointed. You’ll never wish you had slept a few more hours when the destination of your dreams is waiting for you.

Torcello Stone Floor

If you are still wondering why you should give up some of your valuable Venice time to see Torcello, and my photographs and words leave you unconvinced, then here are five more reasons why you should take the two ferries to Torcello:

1. Torcello is the oldest  part of Venice, settled by Veneti fleeing Attila the Hun in 452.

2. There are three highly rated lunch spots on the island, so you can make a day of the trip if you wish.

3. If you love cats (as I do) there are many well fed and friendly stray cats lounging around the Cathedral.

4. The outdoor sculpture garden, with everything from Roman to Medieval to Modern, in various states of preservation and reconstruction is free for the wandering.

5. Ernest Hemingway lived there for some time, and wrote part of “Across the River and Into the Trees” while living at Torcello.

Torcello is a truly special place to visit, but it does take a sacrifice of some of your time in Venice. However, if you are partial to Byzantine Art, and want to walk in a Byzantine Cathedral with beautifully well-preserved mosaics, then the trip is worth the sacrifice.

Torcello Byzantine Mosaics

Torcello Cat

Torcelllo Sculpture Garden

Torcello Cathedral

15 Comments

  1. Pingback: The Byzantine Beauty in Berlin | Jaunting Jen

  2. The Last Judgement in that basilica is amazing; was my favourite thing in Venice.

  3. Wow it’s so beautiful, I love mosaics, I have to put this down in my list to visit next time. Thank you!

  4. I contemplated perusing Torcello, when I was there a week ago. I’d done the round trip from the main island to Burano then Torcello and back to St. Mark’s. Had I known what was there I would have most definitely stopped for a visit as I was in Venice for a whole week this time. Next time then. Great that you enjoyed it so much. Like you I believe some things are worth the sacrifice 🙂

  5. Thanks for popping over to my spot, Jen. Always nice to have a new face around.
    As you mentioned Venice it reminded me of another blogpal has just returned from holiday from there. You can compare notes! 🙂 http://ishaiyafreshlysqueezed.com/2013/08/24/the-venice-diaries-rain/

  6. Hi Jaunting Jen! Torcello was an excellent choice: it is certainly fascinating as much as Burano is cute. I am not a big fan of Murano, but most tourists seem to be. I have been living in Venice for years and I have been to Torcello twice. Both times the island was nearly deserted. I didn’t know that Hemingway lived in Torcello… I distrust tales about Hemingway… I only believed a bar I saw in Madrid that had a sing “Hemingway was not here”, LOL!

  7. iputmylifeonashelf

    I am a huge fan of getting up at the crack of dawn and getting places before everyone else wakes up. It not only makes for better pictures, but allows you to actually LOOK at what you have traveled to see. You get to daze out and have so many thoughts of excitement going through your head. You don’t get interrupted by people accidentally knocking into you or using their outside voices inside.

    Torcello looks wonderful.

    • Thanks. Yep, getting up early or going during the off season is my favorite way to travel. I’m thinking of going to Angkor Wat during the end of the rainy season before all of the hordes get there!

  8. Indeed, amazing Mosaics and a beautiful Cathedral ! Thanks Jen.

    • I love Byzantine Art, I think I’m going to take Byzantine History for my next MA history class.

      • While on the subject. Would love for you to join my ‘The History of the Byzantine Empire ‘ community on google+. Happy for you to add anything byzantium ! Can link it to your wordpress blog or contribute stand alone posts.

  9. looks fantastic,
    definitely worth a visit

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