While we were spending the month of May in Venice, Italy, we took a number of daytrips out of the city. One of them was to the island of Torcello, the smallest of the populated islands in the Venetian Lagoon, and surprisingly, our favorite. In this article, we’ll go over how to get to Torcello, what you’ll find there, and how to enjoy your stay.
Torcello is often visited along with the islands of Murano (the one with the glass) and Burano (the one with the colorful houses). We did Murano separately, but we combined our daytrip to Torcello with Burano both times we explored the lagoon. We went out there twice, once to explore and relax, and once just to take some extra photos.
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What’s on Torcello, Italy
Torcello, Italy is a tiny island, but it’s big enough to be worth exploring. The main attraction is the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta (Google Maps). It’s a small cathedral from the 7th century. The cathedral is best known for the old mosaic inside.
Next to the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta is the 11th and 12th century Church of Santa Fosca (Google Maps). Which we thought was even prettier than the cathedral. We especially liked it on a hot day because there was a beautiful big tree outside that happened to be flowering. It was a great place to sit in the shade.
The other well known site – though we didn’t know it was well known at the time – is the “Devil’s Bridge” (Google Maps) aka Ponte del Diavolo, which we just referred to as “that bridge Dannie and Lisa are not going to walk on. It’s a little stone bridge that goes over the canal. It has no guard rails and it’s very narrow. It doesn’t seem to go anywhere in particular, but it is very eye catching because of it’s unusual shape and size.
Torcello has a canal that leads from the Torcello dock (Google Maps) to the palazzo where the church and cathedral are. On the way there you will pass a few houses and inns. I’m pretty sure we saw a couple restaurants too, and one event space. There is a gelato shop, of course.
But really, Torcello wasn’t our favorite daytrip island because of what was there. It was our favorite because of what wasn’t there. If you ask anyone who has been to Venice what the biggest downside is, they will tell you it’s the crowds. The whole time we were on Torcello, we never saw more than two or three other people at a time. Sometimes we couldn’t see anyone but ourselves. It was quiet and peaceful. Murano and Burano are both popular, partly because they are less crowded than the main island of Venice, but compared to Torcello, they are madhouses. Compared to Piazza San Marco, all of the islands are deserted.
After a month in Venice, we were ready for more places like Torcello (and we saw some the next month while driving through Provence and the Loire Valley on our way to Paris, France).
Our Daytrip to Torcello, Italy
When we arrived at Torcello we weren’t exactly sure what to expect. We had much less information to work with, and on our first visit, it was getting late in the afternoon. We just hoped we had time to explore before coming back to the dock to catch the last regular hours waterbus. Dannie and I were on a little date – a rare pleasure for us since we were traveling with our toddler.
While Lisa played back at our Airbnb with her grandmother, Dannie and I cherished the alone time. And we were very excited to find that we actually were alone. For most of our walk along the canal toward the center of the island, we didn’t see anyone. Most of the shops along the main road were already closed.
Once we got to the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta, we knew that we’d be bringing Lisa back the next day (we had purchased two day waterbus tickets). There was so much space for her to walk around without fear of traffic, crowds or water. We enjoyed the peace and quiet and returned to the dock to make our way home.
The next morning we came back with Lisa and the rest of our camera gear, and we turned our little girl loose. Sure enough, she loved it. After a month in Rome and half a month in Venice, she was getting pretty tired of being carried around while we were outside. This was the safest place we’d been in some time (another was Glamping just outside Venice), and she made the most of it.
The most dangerous thing we had to keep her from touching was a rose bush.
On the way back to catch the boat to back to Venice, Dannie kept wondering out loud how much it cost to live on Torcello. I had no idea, but it wasn’t hard to see the appeal. Sure you’d probably feel isolated, but the rustic scenery, the peaceful atmosphere, and the old architecture was more than enough to make extending our daytrip feel like a tempting fantasy.
We didn’t “do” anything to speak of while we were on Torcello, and I think that was sort of the point. We just took some photos and unwound for a while.
How to Get to Torcello from Venice, Italy
Because Torcello is the least well known Venetian island for tourists, and because nearby Burano is so much more popular, I think it will be easier to direct you to our article about Burano for general waterbus information and just say that once you are there, ride one stop further to get to Torcello. But generally speaking, take waterbus number 12 from Fondamente Nove A (Google Maps) on the Northern shore of Venice.
However, if you have gotten off at Burano, be careful when you get back on. Make sure that you board an outbound waterbus so that it will take you to Torcello instead of back toward the main island. Your ticket is good for a period of time, not a set number of stops, so you don’t have to worry about your fare expiring if you go the wrong way, it’s just that you’d lose quite a bit of time. Even if you don’t speak Italian, just ask the driver “Torcello?” And they will either nod or shake their head.
Likewise, be careful about the direction of the waterbus when you are returning to Venice from your daytrip.
Tips for Enjoying Torcello
When to Go to Torcello, Italy
I want to say that the best time to visit Torcello is as early in the morning as possible, but I won’t. Even though it’s technically true that the lighting would be better, the crowds thinner, and the air cooler, I know realistically that you are likely to combine your daytrip to Torcello with your trip to Burano. You will need that early morning magic more on Burano than you will on Torcello, so if you are going in the morning, go to Burano first.
Torcello has fewer crowds at all times, and it has more shade to enjoy once the sun gets high. Speaking of which, this photo involved a tricky lighting situation that I address in my e-book, Easy Manual Mode Photography. There’s a good chance it wouldn’t have come out so well if I’d left it up to my camera’s automatic settings.
What to Bring to Torcello, Italy
Here’s some stuff you should probably pack with you if you are planning on spending any reasonable amount of time on Torcello.
- Bottled Water – It’s sunny out there during travel season. Even though Torcello is the shadiest of the islands near Venice, you’ll still be out on the water for the better part of a day. Don’t get dehydrated.
- Sunblock – Protect your skin. This is the baby safe sunblock we use for Lisa. But whatever kind you buy, make sure that it is a minimum of SPF 30 (50 is better).
- Camera – We thought Torcello was one of the most beautiful places we visited in Italy, and it was certainly more rustic looking than the rest of Venice. If you want your travel photos to have any variety, then bring your camera with you. When we were scouting we brought our Fujifilm mirrorless camera, and when we went back for a more in depth photo session we brought our Nikon D810 and our two favorite lenses, a 24-70mm and a 70-200mm.
- Waterbus Timetable – You can go to the official ACTV site to download up to date timetables and use them on your phone offline.
- Picnic Lunch – I can’t believe we didn’t do this. Dannie, Lisa and I love having picnics together, and Torcello is the perfect place. It’s more remote than our picnic at Pont Du Gard, and it’s quieter than our picnic at the Roman Aqueduct Park. Oh well, next time. If you have a picnic on Torcello during your daytrip from Venice, send us photos so that we can live vicariously through you.
Don’t be one of those people who go all the way out to Burano without visiting Torcello. That’d be like visiting the canal city and not riding a gondola It’s a small island that you can probably see in an hour, but you are likely to want to stay longer. It’s the refreshing break that you’ll be looking for after the noisy streets of Venice. Trust us, we did plenty of things during our month in Venice that we’ve never bothered to recommend. Torcello isn’t the most convenient place to get to, but but it’s one of the easiest places to enjoy.
If you found this article to be helpful and enjoyable, you might want to check out our destinations page to see where else we have been since we started slow traveling full time. And if you’d like to support us in our travels and in writing guides like this one, head over to our resources page or our shop when you are planning your next big adventure. Happy travels.