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Venice's original settlers arrived in the 5th Century,  when the  Veneti--a tribe from what is now the Italian mainland--sought refuge from barbarian invaders. They didn't settle on the 100 small islands that now comprise the city's historic center, however: Instead, they chose islands closer to the mainland, one of which--Torcello--became the most important city in the Venetian Lagoon until the 12th Century, when silt from rivers on the mainland began to turn the northernmost reaches of the Laguna into a mosquito-infested swamp.

Today, the island of Torcello has a population of two dozen or so (compared to an estimated 20,000 in its heyday), but it also has reminders of its importance a thousand years ago--most notably the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta, which was founded in 639 AD and still has extraordinary Byzantine-style mosaics and marble floors from the 11th and 12th Centuries.

Torcello is only five minutes from Burano by public water bus. For more information on visiting this quiet and historic island, see the Torcello page in our Venice Islands Tour article.

In the photos below:

  • The first image shows Torcello, with Burano to the island's south. (From Burano, it's only a 5-minute ride to Torcello by public water bus.) The ACTV waterbus stop is barely visible in the wide channel that runs along the left side of Torcello. Look for it at the foot of the pedestrian road to the interior.

  • The second picture is a close-up of the route to the cathedral, the Santa Fosca Church, and the small Torcello Museum. As you walk from the waterbus stop (lower left) to the churches and museum (top right), you'll pass several inns and restaurants--among them, the Locanda Cipriani, which is owned by the proprietors of Harry's Bar in Venice.

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