Considered the “parent island” of Venice, Torcello lies at the northern end of the Venetian Lagoon. It was first settled in the 5th century, developing into a bustling commercial town with its own cathedral by the 12th century and believed to be from where Venice’s population originated.
While it once contained palaces, churches, shipyards and docks, today there are only two churches and a small collection of homes remaining. Torcello’s cathedral is dedicated to Santa Maria Assunta and dates to 639 AD, and is considered the best example of Venetian-Byzantine architecture still standing today. It features beautiful mosaics lining the interior walls, including angels carrying a medallion depicting the Lamb of God and a mosaic of the Last Judgment from the early 13th century.
Be sure to admire the exquisite marble carvings throughout the interior and the 11th-century mosaic floor, together with a frieze of the Twelve Apostles surrounded by flowers. The cathedral stands adjacent to the tiny 11th-century church of Santa Fosca and a historical museum with artifacts dating back to antiquity.
Don’t miss a visit to the stone seat of Trono di Attila (Attila’s Throne), which is believed to have once been the bishop’s chair. Torcello is also home to the Ponte del Diavolo (the Devil’s Bridge) that is noted for its lack of parapets and boasts beautiful views across the water to the neighboring island of Burano. While Torcello has few residents, there are a handful of restaurants along the main canal where you can grab a bite to eat during the busy summer months.