(Many people visit Venice and don’t realize there are some truly beautiful and historic islands just a short vaporetto ride (boat taxi) away in the Venetian lagoon. Burano is truly a must-see destination if you are in the area.)
Bright Colors. When you see them in a photo your eyes instantly perk up and tend to explore the parameters of the frame. When you experience such a dizzying array of colors in person, something ignites inside your soul and you feel energized, alive and happy.
This is Burano. A small island near Venice that is a virtual rainbow. And this is how it makes you feel.
Happy. Energized. Inspired.
The island was not extremely busy when I visited a week or so ago post Covid-19 with a good friend, but even neighboring Venice is pretty quiet these days. Many of the Burano locals were out and about enjoying the beautiful sunny day as gentle winds swept through the island keeping the warmer temperatures bearable.
Why So Colorful?
Many of the houses in Burano are painted in vibrant colors from neon green to a tantalizing magenta to an almost fluorescent peach and more. Some are more normal shades of color, but ah, the energy!
Legend has it that the homes were painted like this in order to help the fisherman who have made a living here for centuries in the sea. The bright colors were beacons helping them to find their way back homeward in the thick fog. The bright paint caught on to most of the homes on the island, even the ones on the interior. Whatever its reason, the island, which has approximately 3,000 residents, is a bright and sunny place which attracts tourists from around the world.
The greater your storm, the brighter your rainbow.
But it’s not the only reason the island is of particular interest in the region, even though it is the most visible one. It’s popular not only for its bright and colorful homes, but more importantly, for its centuries old lace-making industry.
The History of Burano Lace
The first place I headed to after I got off the vaporetto and set foot on Burano island was a lace-making atelier called Martina Vidal. I was intrigued by how a tiny island had set up a thriving and famous lace making industry centuries ago.
Lacework on the island became popular on the island back in the 1500s helped by the aid of a wealthy Dogaressa (Wife of the Doge of Venice) Morosina Morosini-Grimani, who promoted the lace industry and set up workshops for the upper class women of Venice to learn this intricate skill. The lace’s popularity surged throughout Europe in the 16th century, so much so that Louis XIV was said to be wearing a Burano lace collar on his coronation day. You can’t get more prestigious than that.
After a lull in the industry, a school was opened on the island in the 1800s for girls of Burano to learn lace-making, which revived the art. When you look at the intricate patterns of the laces in the shops and the museum, you realize the infinite patience and skill required to sit and stitch with a lace cushion (tombolo) on your lap for hours on end. The lace school closed in 1972 and unfortunately the art of lace-making is slowly dying out, but it still is being done on Burano to this day.
The shop we went into has a museum with antique linens and lacework, and is worth visiting if you are interested in the incredible history. But just walking into the store itself just makes you go gaga over the incredible lace tablecloths and linens filling the shelves for sale. The sheer amount of time it took to create these magnificent pieces is testament to human perseverance and patience, and as proof of the quality of the craftsmanship of the lace, the rich and famous are known to shop there. They don’t allow photos in the shop, but I did sneak this one just to show the intricacy of these pieces.
Legend and Lace
A romantic legend pertaining to the lace on the island says that a young fisherman was out on his boat a few days before he was to be married. Four mermaids tried to lure him away with them with their song, but the loyal fisherman resisted their charms. His reward for resisting their call was a beautiful and delicate pattern in foam created by a swish of one of the mermaids’ tails in the sea, which he gave to his future bride. She loved it so much that she copied it with her needle, and thus the art of lacemaking was born.
The whole island is a lovely place to wile away the hours and indulge in some delicious seafood and absorb the beautiful atmosphere. The stores selling lace are the cherry on top. Think about a trip there when you plan your trip to Venice.
Helpful facts about Burano
Time to get there from Venice: approximately 40 minutes by vaporetto, the public transportation boat which travels to the islands surrounding Venice. Much less time if you shell out the euros for a private taxi boat, a motoscafi. These private taxi boats can hold up to 10 people, so could be worth it if you divide the high charge between several people or are constrained for time.
Time to spend there: a full day at least to see all that it has to offer, more if you want to delve more into its history and savor your time there. In addition, there is a bridge that connects the island to nearby Mazzorbo, a tiny island of 250 people which is a relaxing stroll away. A Michelin-starred restaurant called Venissa awaits you there set in a beautiful vineyard overlooking the lagoon. As one who has had a meal there, plan ahead and indulge yourself. It’s a truly special place.
What to eat there: Delicious lemon butter cookies/biscuits called Essi and Bussola available at any bakery on the island. Fresh seafood: Rissoto Di Go, a famous risotto made from the broth of the Goby fish as well as the Cuttlefish Risotto. The seafood in general is known to be especially fresh and caught from local fisherman.
***Special thanks to my friend Melissa Paul who introduced me to this vibrant island. As Arnold Schwarzenegger once said, “I’ll be back.”***