Venice, Torcello, Lagoon – fun on Saturday afternoon

A perfect Saturday afternoon on the Venetian Lagoon 

The lagoon of Venice - 1940s map with Torcello and Burano islands far right. www.educated-traveller.com
The lagoon of Venice – 1940s map with Torcello and Burano islands far right. http://www.educated-traveller.com

Yesterday we took a boat from Lido di Venezia over to Fondamente Nuove. From there it’s Line 12 to Torcello via Murano (the glass-maker’s island) and then Burano (the lace-making and fishermen’s island) before arriving at Torcello. Probably the island in the lagoon with the richest and longest history.

On the way across the lagoon there’s a great view of Lorenzo Quinn’s ‘Building Bridges’ which has been installed at the very furthermost point of the ‘Arsenale’. A series of hands joined over the water in a symbolic gesture of unity, co-operation and friendship. The hands are all moulded from Quinn’s family members; son, wife, mother-in-law, these are real hands, real people, demonstrating real connections.

Lorenzo Quinn's - Building Bridges, Arsenale, Venice, Italy - 2019
Lorenzo Quinn’s – Building Bridges, Arsenale, Venice, Italy – 2019

 

The Lido of Venice is a large barrier island that protects the Venetian Lagoon from the Adriatic Sea
The Lido of Venice is a large barrier island that protects the Venetian Lagoon from the Adriatic Sea

Torcello was a port and fishing village during the days of the Roman Empire. In fact the nearby Roman town of Altinum, on the mainland, used Torcello as a transhipment point. Cargoes were loaded onto boats and moved down a series of waterways linking the Roman town with the lagoon. Then in Torcello goods would be loaded onto larger ships for export to Southern Italy, Greece and the Dalmatian Coast. 

The Romanesque Church of Santa Fosca, Torcello, Venice
The Romanesque Church of Santa Fosca, Torcello, Venice

The magnificent Romanesque Church of Sant Fosca dates from the 6th century and is a wonderful example of early Christian architecture, with rounded arches and an elegant, octagonal shape. The church looks eastern in appearance. This eastern or Byzantine influence is seen inside the large church or basilica of Santa Maria Assunta, right next door. As Torcello became more important and it’s population increased, from the 6th century onwards, the modest church of Santa Fosca was no longer big enough or grand enough. So in the 11th century construction of a huge new church began and it’s this Basilica decorated with spectacular mosaics that attracts visitors today.

In fact the Basilica of Torcello dominates the landscape of the northern lagoon. It can be seen for miles. The basilica has Roman origins, with original mosaic flooring visible underneath the medieval flooring that we walk on today. However it was expanded and decorated in medieval times. A large bell tower was built and large teams of craftsmen worked inside the church creating a range of superb mosaics. The most famous mosaic is ‘The Last Judgement’ graphically demonstrating the fate of church-goers if they did not live a virtuous and moderate life. 

Torcello, originally the port for the Roman city of Altinum, home to a fine basilica, amazing Byzantine mosaics and the legendary Locanda Cipriani
Torcello, originally the port for the Roman city of Altinum, home to a fine basilica, amazing Byzantine mosaics and the legendary Locanda Cipriani
Torcello - Basilica of Santa Maria Assunta - Last Judgement Mosaic
Torcello – Basilica of Santa Maria Assunta – Last Judgement Mosaic

A visit to Torcello however, isn’t just about history and the past. It’s also about the lagoon, it is an opportunity to explore and appreciate this vast wetland area that offers a unique habitat to a vast array of wildlife, numerous types of birds and a healthy marine population of fish. There are fruit and vegetable gardens too. The islands of the lagoon are returning slowly to their original role as the producers for the city of Venice. Nearby is the island of Sant’Erasmo famed for a unique type of artichoke, grown in its sandy, slightly salt soil. Whilst on Mazzorbo there are vineyards, producing a unique and very particular white wine, straight from the Venetian Lagoon. 

Venetian Lagoon - part of the fun is waiting for the boat!
Venetian Lagoon – part of the fun is waiting for the boat!
The Basilica of Torcello, surrounded by gardens.
The Basilica of Torcello, surrounded by gardens.
Torcello - October, 2019 - friends on the bridge!
Torcello – October, 2019 – friends on the bridge!
Torcello is anchored in a sea of wetland and mud flats. The environment is perfect for a huge range of birds and wetland dwellers.
Torcello is anchored in a sea of wetland and mud flats. The environment is perfect for a huge range of birds and wetland dwellers.
  • Torcello - a wetland sanctuary for wildlife of all types. Venetian Lagoon.
    Torcello – a wetland sanctuary for wildlife of all types. Venetian Lagoon.
    A visit to Torcello and to the lagoon of Venice enables us to understand and appreciate the history and origins of this incredible maritime community. A watery environment offering a safe and protected anchorage. But also a lagoon that offered security, food and a livelihood for local Veneti people. Later the Romans, citizens of Altinum, headed to the lagoon, fleeing the mainland in the last days of the Roman Empire. They built a community here. Years later the commercial focus of Venice shifted to Rialto, leaving Torcello to fade gradually over the centuries. A fascinating insight into the history of the lagoon and the history of Venice is to be found on the island of Torcello. 

 

Notes:

Torcello is surrounded by wet lands and marshes, a perfect sanctuary for all types of wildlife and birds!