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Burano is a picturesque fishing village with a population of about 3000 people. An island situated north of Venice, it is often visited by tours together with its neighbouring islands Murano, the island of glass, and Torcello, where there is an important Venetian-Byzantine church.
You can get there by ferry in roughly 30-50 minutes, depending on the ferry line and the number of stops, departing from Fondamenta Nuove in Venice. Given its small size, an afternoon should be sufficient to visit the village. If you want to take a look at Mazzorbo, a small island connected to Burano where you can find some houses, a few restaurants and several vegetable gardens, just cross a wooden bridge to the north-west of the island.
WHY VISIT IT:
The two reasons for which Burano is most famous for are the brightly coloured houses and for its lace tradition.
In regards to the brightly coloured houses, it is suffice to know that Burano was elected one of the 10 most colourful cities in the world, and that by entering it you are immediately surrounded by a romantic, fairytale atmosphere. The legend goes that the houses were painted with such bright colours so that the fishermen of the island, often at sea for several days, could recognise them from afar, even in the midst of the fog.
As for the lace tradition, in the 16th and 17th centuries Burano was the fulcrum of the production of lace throughout Europe, so much so that the Sun King’s court became dependent on it. Nowadays, this art is becoming much less popular but a museum remains to tell us the history and, if you are lucky enough, when you visit the island you may still be abe to see one or two old lace-makers, sat in a chair hidden away somewhere in a small square, hard at work.
WHEN TO GO:
The best time to visit Burano island is undoubtedly in spring, more precisely from March to June. It is in this period that the frost and the typical mists of the winter season are over, nature re-flourishes on the balconies, and the sun revives the bright colours that distinguish the houses of Burano. If you visit in late autumn you risk running into a rainy or cloudy day and half of Burano’s charm, with its brilliant, colourful and joyful atmosphere, is lost. In summer the problem is normally the heat. Most summer days consist of a scorching heat that suffuses the small streets and makes every step difficult. It is also worthwhile mentioning that every summer, Burano is targeted by waves of tourists. With this in mind, take care to avoid festive periods and holidays (for example Easter Monday), especially if you don’t want to wait an hour queuing to board the ferry to then find yourself in what can only be described as a “sardines in a can” situation!
WHAT TO SEE:
The best place to admire the beauty of Burano is Rio di Mezzo, where the rainbow-coloured buildings and their reflections on the water stand out on both sides. Other panoramic points are the Tre Ponti, the Love Viewing Bridge, and the Fondamenta Cao di Rio, which ends on a terrace overlooking Torcello. There is only one square on the island and it is there where you can photograph the famous crooked bell tower of St. Martino’s church, as well as visit the lace museum which was once a school where the secrets of embroidery were handed down. In the museum you can appreciate a whole series of extremely fine and precious clothes and accessories that have been made across the centuries.
Some truly unique examples of houses that must be seen whilst on the island are; the house come museum of the sculptor Remigio Barbaro, the home of Gianfranco Rosso which shows Burano’s history painted on its walls, and the house of Bepi Suà, an inhabitant of the island who had a sweet shop and, perhaps inspired by them, filled the facade of his home with an array of colours and geometric shapes!
To complete your visit to Burano I recommend strolling aimlessly, just for the sake of getting lost. Take the opportunity to discover refined shades and hanging gardens, and enjoy every day goings-on in a less chaotic, more playful, Venice!
WHAT TO BUY:
A handkerchief, a doily, a tablecloth or a lace undershirt are just some of the choices available in the fabric shops. Be aware however, that these are machine-made pieces as originals, which require days or even months of work, are now hard to find and are very expensive. If not, why not take a look at glass objects? Many glass masters have their own laboratory in Murano but reside in Burano, and it is here where they sell their products. One of these, for example, is Alessandro Tagliapietra, who makes jewels from glass. I purchased a very pretty necklace with a heart pendant made entirely of honey-coloured glass.
Last but not least, if you are looking for a typical Venetian mask you can find one in the shops in Burano at a lower price than in Venice.
WHAT TO EAT:
Being a fishing village, the typical specialties are based on fish and shellfish. A very widespread example is the “risotto di Gó“, where Gó stands for Ghiozzo, fish of the lagoon. Where can you eat it? If you are looking for a place that covers all budgets there is the ‘Trattoria al Gato Nero’, whereas if you want to treat yourself to a finer dining experience, head to the Michelin-starred restaurant “Venissa” in Mazzorbo.
A culinary symbol of Burano is a dessert called Bussolà, a biscuit made with a dough similar to that of shortcrust pastry and typically in the shape of a doughnut. In some ice cream parlours it is even available as an ice cream flavour (delicious!).