Looking for an escape from the hordes of tourists that descend upon Venice, Italy, every summer? I suggest a side trip to the sleepy island of Torcello, located at the northern end of the Venetian lagoon and an easy ferry ride from Venice via neighboring island Burano (another island well worth visiting).
Touring the islands of Venice makes for a nice half-day "vacation from your vacation," an escape from the overly crowded areas that can sometimes spoil an otherwise beautiful city.
The most popular sight on Torcello is the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta, where ornate Byzantine mosaic artwork dating back to the 12th century can be viewed. But for a more laid-back adventure, take a gentle hike on the cathedral grounds to snap photos of crumbling statuary, ancient escutcheons, figures of St. Mark's winged lion, and panoramic views of the Venetian lagoon. Wildlife abounds here—particularly waterbirds—and visitors can count on peace and quiet on this sparsely populated island. You won't be pestered by beggars, vendors or hordes of tourists on Torcello.
To get there from Venice, you can pay for an organized tour with a private company (which is what I did, visiting the islands of Burano, Murano and Torcello), or, first take the "N" vaporetto from Venice's northern shore to Burano. Connect to Torcello from Burano via the "T" vaporetto, a very short ride. Watch carefully as you embark on the ferries; it's all too easy to get on the wrong one!