Venice 2013: Day 3 – To Torcello

Buying the vaporetto ticket has expanded my Venetian horizons this trip and with another glorious day forecast I decided to take to water again, this time to cross the Lagoon to Torcello. I’d never been to this island before. It’s known to be pretty wild with few people living there but it has a famed and beautiful medieval cathedral with wonderful frescos and mosaics and this encourages tourists to visit. Hence a few smart restaurants have popped up, including Locanda Cipriani.

My day started with breakfast in the courtyard at Hotel Al Ponte Mocenigo which was a real pleasure. I said to Sandro that I hadn’t been able to do this my last two visits because of rain and cooler weather so it felt like a real holiday treat to eat outside.
Then I set off for the day. I took the vaporetto just one stop to Ca’ d’Oro from where I had to walk across Cannaregio to Fondamente Nuove to pick up another vaporetto that crosses the Lagoon to Murano and Burano.
I passed men carrying long single-stemmed red roses. It’s a holiday here: San Marco’s Day and it is customary to give your loved one a red rose. There were people carrying red roses everywhere so it looks as if Venice really is the city of romance.The walk took less than 10 minutes but I’d just missed a boat so decided to fill time by going into a nearby bar for a cappuccino.
I stood at the bar as the Italians do watching locals come in for a quick caffeine hit in little espresso cups. Back at the vaporetto stop a queue was forming but fortunately we all got on and I grabbed a place right at the side for a good view. Heading off across the Lagoon the boat has to follow marked channels where they can be sure it’s deep enough to pass.
We stopped first at Murano and then went on to Burano where I had to change vaporettos to make another short trip to Torcello. Interestingly the two crew on the first vaporetto got off and started up the smaller second boat to take me and a few others on the 5-minute trip.
And because most people were staying on Burano I even got a seat upfront! There’s only one way to walk, along a smart new towpath, when you get off the boat. This takes you along a canal to the centre in a very short time.
At the centre there isn’t much other than the cathedral, a church and a small museum (which was closed) and a few stalls selling souvenirs. But it was very pretty.

Going round behind the church you come to the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta.

I paid €9 for a ticket to go inside the cathedral and up the campanile – which was covered in scaffolding, but I was told I could walk to the top. I first went into the cathedral. No wonder people come to Torcello just to see this late 11th/early 12th century building. It was amazing, with incredible frescos and mosaics, really beautiful. But cameras were strictly banned so no photos I’m afraid. However, the point of climbing the campanile after was to take photos of the promised magnificent views across the Lagoon. It was slightly weird making my way through a building site full of warnings of danger and then going into the building alone. I looked up at my walk.

Mmmm. It looked a long way up! However, it wasn’t so bad and soon I was at the top. The views were a bit spoilt by the scaffolding but it was still worth the climb.

I was slightly worried that the bells might ring and checked my watch to make sure we weren’t near the hour.

It was lunchtime now. Quite early but I was enjoying Torcello and its peace and was in no hurry to leave. When I told Sandro at breakfast that I intended to go to Torcello he immediately – knowing how important food is to me! – told me where I could eat. When he mentioned Locanda Cipriani I said that sounded expensive. However, it wasn’t outrageous at all when I looked at the menu displayed outside and as I just wanted a snack at lunchtime I decided to have something from the bar menu.

There was a bar area at the front but I followed the example of a couple in front of me who only wanted a drink and asked if they could have it in the garden at the back. Soon I was shown to a table and the waiter rushed away to get me a cushion for the garden chair.

I passed through the posh dining room for ‘proper’ lunchtime diners.

I may have been eating cheaply by Cipriani standards but the service was friendly and impeccable. I ordered a glass of prosecco (thinking only later that I should, being at Cipriani, have ordered a Bellini and I saw many being served at other tables). It was a good prosecco though and came with a large bowl of nibbles and the menu.

It only cost €5 which given the average here for a glass of prosecco seems to be about €3.50-4.00 was pretty good. I chose some mantecato with polenta for my meal (€12).

I know I seem to have a bit of a mantecato addiction while in Venice but I promise you it was worth having it again for this one. It was so light and creamy and delicious. The polenta actually tasted of something nice and was likewise light and soft. It was really quite a big ‘snack’ and perfect for lunch. I was so happy sitting there though in such tranquil and pretty surroundings that I ordered the fruit cake of the day (which seemed the best choice when I asked what desserts they had) with coffee.

By the time I left I’d been happily sitting there for an hour and a half. No one made me feel I should leave or hurry and everyone was helpful and friendly. You can eat from the bar menu for as little as €6 (bruschetta) so it turned out that eating at the Locanda Cipriani didn’t have to be expensive at all. If I hadn’t booked a table for tonight I could have been tempted to something from the main menu as by Venice standards, that wasn’t very expensive either for a nice restaurant. Visiting Torcello and lunch was a real highlight and it will definitely be on my list of places to return to next time I come to Venice.

Peace was rather left behind in Torcello. Back on Burano the queue for the vaporetto to take people back to mainland Venice was so long people were trying to count heads. Were there more than a hundred of us? Would we all get on? We did and soon I was being whisked across the Lagoon again. There were lots of sailing boats out – perhaps because of the holiday? – and I spied a wonderful large cataraman in front, turning with the marked channel, and which we eventually passed.

It was sailing beautifully and the crew waved in a friendly manner to us. Close to our destination we passed a large sculpture of two people standing in a boat.

Back on the mainland – if one can call Venice that! – I walked across Cannaregio again and for fun took the traghetto – the locals’ form of crossing the Grand Canal – to Rialto.

For those of a nervous disposition, be warned that these gondolas weave their way precariously between the big vaporettos and speed boats. But it’s a fun way to travel!

I went back to the hotel for a while then headed out about 6 pm when people congregate at bacari – small bars. I headed to one of my favourite bacari in Rialto – Al Merca.

It’s tiny, just a kiosk really, but hugely popular selling a good selection of wine by the glass. I had (another!) prosecco. This one costing me a mere €2.

There’s nowhere to sit, you just have to stand around with the locals. The place is alive and fun – and great for people watching! I then headed back to Santa Croce enjoying the views as I went.

I’d booked a table at Trattoria Al Ponte del Megio near Campo S. Giacomo dell’ Orio. I’d gone there with Annie last year and we’d liked it a lot and I thought it would be a good place for my final evening. I remember last year it was far too cold for anyone to sit outside even though it was exactly a year ago. Tonight however everyone wanted to sit outside and it’s worth it for the view.

A quarter litre of house red came in a pretty jug with a large basket of nibbles.

I began with some large pasta filled with sea bass and a shrimp and rocket sauce.

It was really good. To follow I had Fegato alla Veneziana – Venice style liver cooked with onions and served with polenta (I’m eating lots of polenta – but it’s popular here).

It was excellent. It’s one of my favourite dishes and I really enjoyed it. I was definitely too full for dessert. I paid the bill and took a photo of the restaurant at night.

At the far end of the street Campo S. Giacomo was looking splendid in the clear night.

Then it was a short walk back to the hotel where I sat in the still warm courtyard, ordered some tea and wrote postcards.


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A lifelong lover of good food and travel; writer and book editor

12 thoughts on “Venice 2013: Day 3 – To Torcello

    1. Thank you, Karen. It’s good to know you enjoyed the posts; it’s nice to share. And yes I’ve been amazingly lucky with the weather. Venice is always beautiful but having the sun shine each day does make it seem even more beautiful.

  1. Delightful to be taken back to Torcello………………..Hemingway used to shoot duck there with Arrigo Cipriani’s father. Arrigo’s sister has the Locanda – been visited by all the greats. Nothing whatsoever to do with the vulgar, onyx bathed, Lotto winners’ hotel of same name on Guidecca.   Torcello was Venice until the plague killed and drove everyone surviving to what we now have as Venice. The basilica is a very holy place.   Best Gareth    


  2. Venice is so beautiful you have taken me back there for a moment.
    A good relaxed restaurant near st marks square is osteria San Marco

    When you go to the Peggy Guggenheim musee there is a lovely glass ware and jewellery shop close by, the designers use murano glass in a contemporary way. Marina e Susanna Sent, campo San via well worth a visit.

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