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Looking at it now, it is almost impossible to believe that Torcello was once a major city with numerous palazzi, twelve parishes,
sixteen cloisters and a population estimated to have reached 20,000 at its height.
Nowadays there is a single street/canal a cluster of houses, a church, a cathedral and a museum. The permanent population is now around sixty.
It is thought that the Venetians first moved here after Atila the Hun destroyed the Roman city of Altinum on the mainland in AD 452.
Whilst the shallowness of the northern lagoon made Torcello easy to settle in the early days, this eventually led to its downfall through a combination of malaria,
the silting up of the canals and the introduction of larger vessels.
From the twelfth century onwards the inhabitant moved home (quite literally, taking most of the usable building materials with them)
to the deeper waters of modern Venice. Fragments of the many churches and other buildings can be seen in the museum, which is housed in two fourteenth century palazzi.