Torcello Experience Part One
Torcello, once powerful commercial and political centre and first nucleus of the yet-to-be Venetian Republic, is a small island located at the far north of the lagoon. Today, it counts less than 10 inhabitants and, if we exclude the warmer hours of the warmer months, when curious visitors from all over the planet stop by for a quick visit, the place is almost deserted. An isle of wilderness, peace and silence.
I wanted to catch the best light, so I left the house before dawn. I took the vaporetto from F.ta Nove (linea 12, see timetable here) at 5:40 a.m. At that hour of the day, the boat doesn't automatically stop in Torcello, it is necessary to book the service simply telephoning the free number 800 845 065 at least 20 minutes earlier, so I did. Already at the end of Calle del Fumo, I could see the pink and purple hues of the sky, the colours that appear only for a couple of minutes before the actual dawn takes over. How beautiful. Both San Michele, our local cemetery, and Murano, the island of glass, seemed painted in watercolour-like tones ....
Then, once passed Murano, the hues changed completely, turning into intense orange and yellow. Dawn had arrived and witnessing such a marvel was simply breathtaking. The landscape kept changing and the image of what we call barene (strips of land that get submerged with the high tide) and of the high grass can be definitely defined romantic.
I arrived on Torcello at a quarter past six. There was no one. A boat slowly passed through the canal and the two pensioners greeted me with a warm smile and a sincere 'Buongiorno signorina' (even if I'm a 'signora' now...). There was no one around and I had an appointment at 7. I had gone so early exactly to take pictures, so I stopped for a moment in front of the famous Ponte del Diavolo, one of the few original bridges with no railings left in Venice and then, instead that going straight to the piazza, I crossed the following bridge, which led me into the fields.
At the foot of the bridge, immediately on the right, there is a capital with a beautiful Madonna and it touched me to see that there is someone that still brings her flowers and occasionally lights candles. All around, pure countryside. Trees, flowers, birds and crops. From March to September, you can even see the flamingos, but this year they left together with the cold wind Burian. The houses are an absolute dream, elegant villas with wonderfully kept front and back gardens and flower beds. If it weren't for the expensive prices of the properties, I confess I wouldn't mind this sort of lifestyle.
Wandering around the fields, I could see lots of artichoke plants and a tractor at distance.
Following the path, I arrived at the Santa Maria Assunta Cathedral, symbol of the birth of Venice and known especially for its golden mosaics. I had visited the church a couple of weeks before and the images of hell and paradise, of the skulls and the burning bodies of the damned were still vivid in my memory, not to mention the brightness of the Virgin and Child in the main apse. If you decide to go to Torcello, please do take the time to visit this little jewel, it will be definitely worth your time. The cathedral is annexed to a smaller church entitled after Santa Fosca, virgin and martyr whose relics had been transported by a christian called Vitale, from Sabratha (in Libya) to Torcello in 1011. Quite a few Venetians choose this peaceful place to celebrate their wedding and although small and simpler if compared to its next door neighbour, it has a unique atmosphere of purity and sincerity.
In the square you will see ancient remains, among which the most known are the baptismal font and the so-called throne of Attila. Just in front of the cathedral, a house covered with ivy, with lovely statues along the walls of the side corridor and in the garden. On the right, a vineyard. Follow the vineyard and stop for a moment in front of the field, almost empty if it weren't for the well and the trees, and arrive as far as the canal. From there you will be able to get a different perspective of the island.
Back in the square you will pass in front of the medieval Palazzo del Consiglio and Palazzo dell'Archivio where there is a wall literally studded with bas-reliefs and my favourite, although not particularly elaborate, is the one with the lion and the open book, meaning that when it was done Venice was at peace.
Before the bridge, the bespoke Locanda Cipriani, where (as you have probably read in every article mentioning it) Ernest Hemingway wrote 'Across the river and into the tree'. The same day I visited the cathedral, I also had lunch here. I was invited by a foreign friend who has recently moved to Venice and I must say it was a real treat. We sat under the leafy branches, served and well looked after, and we ate some of the produce of their garden, like the stuffed zucchini flowers with mozzarella and anchovy and the fresh pasta with a pea sauce, which was really delicious. We also had some grilled scallops and tried the fish soup, served in a simple and very refined bowl. To end our meal, my friend insisted we also try the custard filled crepes, which are traditionally flamed with Cointreau just before being served. Beautiful.
When I turned around, I was surprised by the rainbow! It had rained until 30 minutes before I left the house and the sky was just incredible, clear and terse. Anyway, when I looked at the time on my mobile's screen, I realised I had to hurry up. I had an appointment with Paolo Andrich of the Casa Museo Andrich, but this is another story.
TO BE CONTINUED ...