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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
- The Venetian island that inspired Ernest Hemingway (kimbofo.typepad.com)
- Torcello Offers a Refuge from the Tourist Crush (NY Times)