Burano, Italy

While in Venice, we decided to take a short trip to the island of Burano. We had considered both Murano and Burano, but decided only one destination was in the cards for us, and Burano it was. And we’re glad we chose that. It’s a charming little village about an hour (with stops) from the Grand Canal in Venice.

The husband chilling in Burano

As a “sometimes jewelry maker”, I had considered Murano first, but everything I researched said Burano was the more interesting of the two. I can always buy Murano beads elsewhere (including right in Venice — the important thing is to verify they are not Chinese rip offs).

Burano was peaceful and picturesque. We enjoyed walking in the village and having a nice lunch. I would recommend this to anyone visiting Venice for a half-day getaway.

Burano’s History

Burano is known for its colorful houses, which makes for some great photo ops. Some have referred to Burano as the most colorful place in Italy, or in Europe, or even in the world. I can’t speak to that, but it is very colorful and very charming. 

Each house has been painted a vibrant, separate color from its neighbor’s house for historical reasons: when the fishermen from this fishing village were returning to the narrow canals from the sea during foggy days, being able to pinpoint their particular house was key to getting home faster. And not ending up in bed with the neighbor’s wife! Even today, because of the historical nature of the colorful houses, any new house painting must be approved by the government and colors must be strictly adhered to. 

Another treat about Burano: you don’t have to go to Pisa to see a leaning tower. The former bell tower at San Martino Church, which dates back to the 15th century, is in the center of town and leans almost as much as the tower in Pisa. The island is also linked to a smaller island, Mazzorbo, by a wooden bridge. 

It’s a very small island, with not a lot of “action”, but it has a beauty and charm of its own. You can explore the entire island in less than two hours. The main thing to do is to wander throughout the canals and alleyways to see the colorful homes.

Lace

Burano is known for its handcrafted lace. Since at least the 16th century, this little island has produced some of the most intricate laces in the world, and it was at one time considered one of the finest possessions of any European.

In today’s world, lace is not as revered as it once was and is certainly not something I’d bring home, but seeing the lacemakers at work is fascinating. You can visit numerous boutiques or even the lace museum (we did not), but seeing these women in action was interesting and a bit of a time warp. There is a cost to take photos of them, however! So I spied a lovely lady in a boutique working away but didn’t dare violate the photography rule.

Photo from the Lace Museum (not my own)

There is a mythological story about the lace: The tradition of lace making dates back to medieval times and it is said to have its roots in the skills of the fishermen repairing their nets. The ability to manipulate nets slowly moved to the creating of lace and it developed to such an extent to acquire a life of its own.

One of the most famous myths about Burano had to do with a mermaid. Supposedly, an ancient fisherman, engaged to be married, was fishing outside the lagoon in the east sea, and there he met a mermaid siren who tried to entice him with her song. He did not succumb, being faithful to his fiancée instead. So he received a gift from mermaid’s queen, enchanted by his faithfulness: the siren thumped the side of the boat with her tail, creating a foam from which a wedding veil developed. Upon the day of his marriage, he gave the gift to his fiancée. She was admired and envied from all the young ladies of the island, whereupon they begin to imitate the lace of the wedding veil employing needle-and-thread, hoping to create an even more beautiful lace for their own wedding dresses. A nice mythological story.

Food

As the mother of two black cats, my first choice for lunch was Al Gatto Nero (The Black Cat). Second choice is a restaurant that Steve’s patron saint, Anthony Bourdain recommended: Trattoria al Romano. Being a fishing village, Burano is well known for its seafood, but also its specialty risotto. We ended up at neither restaurant. As Anthony said while he was alive, he tends to “kill the things he loves” by highlighting them. His restaurant choice was way too expensive, compared to the one we chose nearby, Cafe Vecio. And it was a lovely lunch we had indeed.

Anthony Bourdain’s recommendation was about 50% higher than the place we chose.

Burano even has a special cookie, called Bussolà. It is shaped like an “S” and is only made on Burano. Many have recommended the So.Zo gelato. Now I’ve heard arguments about which town has the best gelato. Lunch filled me up and I didn’t have room for the gelato or even a cookie. This was my dilemma throughout Italy! First world problems, indeed.

Getting to Burano

There is an efficient form of transportation on getting around the various islands in the Venetian Lagoon using its vaporetto, a water taxi. It cost 7.50 Euros, but be sure to have your ticket validated after your purchase it (or you could face a hefty fine). It took us awhile to find the “right” station on which to depart from Venice. First we tried near the Rialto; “no, go to St. Mark’s.” There we went in one direction than another. “No, this one goes to many islands; go past the other bridges to find the one that goes directly to Burano.” Finally we found it (after taking a break to just sit and view the Grand Canal with some beverages).

Burano was a big highlight on our visit to Venice, and I highly recommend it.

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