Attila’s Throne, Hemingway Book, and Other Myths

Torcello History

Its history has very ancient origins, so much so that, through some testimonies received, it can be affirmed with certainty that it was inhabited since the times of the Roman Empire. An island that every year attracts the attention of tourists from every corner of the world, thanks to its enormous archaeological and historical heritage that it still preserves with kindness and care.

Inhabited by just under 20 residents and surrounded by the waters of the lagoon, it lends itself to excellent itineraries, welcoming visitors between nature and archaeological finds.

In this corner of paradise, the few inhabitants, who still live in farmhouses and educational farms, practice the art of fishing and agriculture, but tourism is the main source of wealth.

The island of “Torcello” probably takes its name from the ancient inhabitants of Altino, Turris, who during the barbarian invasions, underway between the 5th and the 6th centuries AD, and exactly after the last and bloody invasion of the Lombards, escaped from the mainland to avoid pain and suppression and settled on the remote island baptizing it as Torricellium.

It was precisely from this episode that Torcello played a fundamental role, together with the nearby islands, for Venetian trade towards the Mediterranean. During this commercial flowering, the island had thousands of inhabitants. In the following centuries, the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta was built in Torcello and, exactly in the 11th century, the Church of Santa Fosca.

See the pictures of the Cathedral and the Church in Torcello, The Quiet Island.

The decline came around 1400, when it was due to the unhealthy air, a consequence of the many reclamations carried out in the area, and due to the serious plagues that struck Venice in the 1300s and 1500s. For this reason, many buildings fell into disrepair. The diocese of Torcello resisted on the island, suppressed in 1986. 

The Throne of Attila the Hun

On the lawn in front of the Cathedral, there is a stone chair, which the folk tradition attributes to Attila, King of the Huns.

Legend has it that, during the invasion of the Huns in Italy in the fifth century, they would have reached the island of Torcello, where the inhabitants of the nearby Roman city of Altino had taken refuge.

The stone throne that still stands in front of the cathedral was even used by the king of the Huns, Attila, the famous “scourge of God“.

According to historical sources, however, the Huns never arrived in Torcello, because their advance in north-eastern Italy stopped in Aquileia and, anyway, being a people of the steppe, they would never have even thought of reaching an island by sea.

Despite the unfounded legend, this stone throne dates back to the fifth century, when the first community was formed on the island of Torcello in Venice. This throne was used, in fact, as a seat of the magister militum, the governor of the island, during council meetings and when he administered justice.

Attila, byname Flagellum Dei (Latin: “Scourge of God”), (died 453), king of the Huns from 434 to 453 (ruling jointly with his elder brother Bleda until 445). He was one of the greatest of the barbarian rulers who assailed the Roman Empire, invading the southern Balkan provinces and Greece and then Gaul and Italy.


Ernest Hemingway visited Torcello in 1948 and took a month-long residency at the beautiful Locanda Cipriani. Hemingway found peace and quiet at the Cipriani Locanda and at his table alongside the Locanda’s foyer he wrote the book “Across the River and Into the Trees”.  The impressions and memories of that November in Torcello are forever imprinted on the pages of his novel. 

The ‘locanda’ no doubt gain notoriety by Hemingway stay and has since entertained the rich and famous for decades. Charlie Chaplin, The Queen, Margaret Thatcher, Prince Charles and Lady Diana, Maria Callas and Paul Newman have all visited. During the Venice Film Festival, there’s a stream of sleek water taxis waiting for the latest Hollywood stars to finish their lunch. There’s even a small watercolor hanging on the wall that was done by Winston Churchill during a visit in the 1950s. 

You can sit on the porch and have lunch or dinner al fresco and feel like a famous person yourself. Just outside the Inn, there is a  small canal, with moorings for boats, should you desire a boat tour on the Laguna at sunset.

Where to Stay

LOCANDA CIPRIANI ( Affittacamere – 1ª cat. )

Piazza S. Fosca 29 – Isola Torcello – 30012 VENEZIA (VE)

Other places where to stay in Torcello

CA’ TORCELLO ( Bed & Breakfast )

Fondamenta Borgognoni -Torcello 9 – 30100 VENEZIA (VE)

Telefono:041730455 Fax:041730455

CASA D’ARTISTA ( Bed & Breakfast )

Via Borgognoni – Torcello 4/L – 30100 VENEZIA (VE)


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I lived the most part of my life in Washington DC, now in Italy getting to know again my country. Plenty of surprises, for good and bad, and lots of nostalgia for DC.

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