Located on the sparsely populated island of Torcello in the Venetian Lagoon, the Church of St. Maria Assunta is one of the oldest structures in Venice. Originally constructed in the 7th century, what you see now is mostly renovations from the 11th and 12th centuries in the Byzantine style featuring an impressive array of mosaics.
The highlight of the Church of St. Maria Assunta (Basilica of Santa Maria Assunta) is its glittering Byzantine mosaics, including an impressive depiction of the Last Judgment. Climb the bell tower for panoramic views of the Venetian Lagoon—you can see as far north as the Alps on a clear day.
A visit to Torcello is included in most guided island-hopping tours of the Venetian Lagoon. Alternatively, you can catch a water bus (vaporetto) and explore the island and the basilica on your own.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Visiting Torcello and the Church of St. Maria Assunta is a peaceful reprieve from the bustle of Venice.
- An admission fee is required to enter the church, and there is an additional fee to climb the bell tower.
- The bell tower climb is worth it for the views.
How to Get There
The Basilica of Santa Maria Assunta is located on Torcello, an island in the northern end of the Venetian Lagoon. To get there, take vaporetto 12 from Fondamenta Nove station in Venice to Burano, then vaporetto 9 on to Torcello. The trip takes 60 minutes. Upon arrival in Torcello, it’s a 10-minute walk along the main path to the church.
When to Get There
Torcello is the perfect escape from the crowded tourist streets of Venice and a delight to visit any time of year. As the farthest of the main islands from Venice, Torcello maintains a peaceful vibe even during the peak summer tourist season. Catch the first morning’s vaporetto out to have the island virtually to yourself.
Other Attractions on Torcello
Next to the Church of St. Maria Assunta are the small 11th-century Church of Santa Fosca, which is free to tour, and the Torcello Museum, with medieval artifacts from the island. The island is also home to the Locanda Cipriani restaurant, made famous by Ernest Hemingway, who spent time on Torcello writing Across the River and into the Trees. Several short walking paths traverse the island’s marshy terrain, giving you an idea of what Venice looked like before the stone palazzi (palaces) were built.