Torcello - Italy
Torcello is a small community in the Venetian Lagoon and is considered the oldest continuously populated region of Venice. It now holds only 100 inhabitants, but around the 5th century it had a population of around 20,000 people. After the downfall of the Roman Empire, Torcello was one of the first lagoon islands to be populated by Venetians who fled the mainland to take shelter from the recurring barbarian invasions. Torcello grew into a thriving colony with palaces and churches and became famous for its salt works and wool industry. The decline of the island came with the growth of Venice and the outbreak of Malaria which drove away the inhabitants. The former splendour of Torcello's numerous palaces, its twelve parishes and its sixteen cloisters has almost disappeared since the Venetians recycled the useful building materials. Now the only remaining medieval buildings are the Church of Santa Maria Assunta, the Church of Santa Fosca and a museum housed in two fourteenth century palaces, the Palazzo dell'Archivio and the Palazzo del Consiglio. The Church of Santa Maria Assunta has one wall completely covered with a wonderful Byzantine mosaic representing "Il Giudizio Universale". The Church of Santa Fosca has an octagonal frame with three apses. The central one has two rows of arcades and a harmonious colonnade. On the altar you can admire a beautiful sculpture from 15th century of Santa Fosca. Another noteworthy sight for tourists is an ancient stone chair, known as Attila's Throne. It has, however, nothing to do with the king of the Huns, but it was most likely the bishop's chair. Torcello is also home to a Devil's Bridge, known as the Ponte del Diavolo or alternatively the Pontecello del Diavolo (devil's little bridge).