The first time I went to Venice I spent two days exploring the city, wandering the labyrinth of cobblestone streets and canals and getting lost in the beauty of the floating city. I went again a few years later with my sister but we only had a day there so we spent the limited time we had strolling the narrow passage ways and admiring the quieter canals off the main streets. It was only when we got back and people asked if we had visited any of the other islands, that I realised there is so much more to Venice than the city itself.
Venice is surrounded by a number of beautiful and unique islands which make up the Venetian Lagoon. These islands have a very different feel to Venice and each one has its own distinct identity.
After years of talking about going back to see the islands, I decided to book a surprise trip for my sister’s birthday in September. We had seen so many beautiful photos of Burano and decided to spend a day exploring this rainbow coloured island.
A colourful history
Burano is a photographer’s paradise. Brightly coloured houses line the sides of the canals; each one a different shade of the rainbow. Some say that it was the fishermen who started this tradition of painting the houses in bright colours to help them find their way back through the thick fog of the lagoon. Others say it was a matter of practicality, a way of marking one house from another.
Burano was and still is a fishing village which means the restaurants serve fresh seafood every day, and for a much more reasonable price than you would pay in Venice! There are lots of lovely restaurants down the main canal but if you wander down some of the smaller streets you’ll find some cheaper, more local options.
Although Burano can feel quite touristy in parts, much of the island still has an authentic feel which you can’t always find in Venice. As we wandered down the canals we saw lots of fishing boats coming back in with their catch, and heard the fishermen shouting hello to some of the local residents who were hanging out their washing or watering their flower boxes.
However, fishing isn’t the only thing that Burano is famous for; it’s also known for its intricate and delicate lace. It’s a tradition that dates back to the 16th century when the women of Burano began stitching lace which was in high demand across Europe. Although lacemaking waned in the 1700s, it became popular again in the late 1800s. As we strolled through the island, we saw lots of shops selling the delicate lace; however, due to the amount of work and time it takes to make handmade lace, much of the lace sold in Burano has been made by machine, or has actually been imported from China. The giveaway is in the price; real lace is not cheap and even a small handkerchief can cost €50 or more.
There are still a few traditional lacemakers in Burano if you want to get a glimpse of how life used to be on the island. Our Air BnB host recommended visiting the lacemakers at Martina Vidal who have been making handmade lace for four generations. Their workshop spans over three floors and you can watch the craftswomen making authentic lace. If you’re interested in learning more about the history of lacemaking then a visit to the Museo del Merletto (the Lace Museum) is a must.
Blending in in Burano
Via Galuppi is the island’s main street, lined with souvenir shops, bars and restaurants. By mid-afternoon the street was filled with tourists looking for somewhere for lunch and trying to buy lace. Luckily it’s much easier to escape the crowds in Burano than in Venice. We wandered down a side street and within a few minutes we found ourselves on an empty, peaceful canal. We spent the day walking down the narrow canals and admiring the picturesque footbridges which add to Burano’s charm. As much as we tried, we couldn’t help taking photos in front of the houses that matched the colour of our dresses. When in Burano…
The leaning tower of… Burano?
Burano also has its own leaning tower, a smaller replica of the famous tower in Pisa. The former bell tower of San Martino Church can be seen from the sea and looks beautiful against the backdrop of the colourful houses. The best time to capture this is as you come in to Burano on the water bus. You’ll get an unobstructed view of the tower and the houses, and it’s a different perspective to the usual shots you see of the island.
Planning your own trip
How to get to Burano: Burano is easily accessible from Venice. The #12 vaporetto (water bus) line runs from Venice to Burano and departs every 30 minutes from Venice’s San Zaccaria stop which is near St. Mark’s. The large ferry stops at Venice’s Fondamente Nove stop before continuing to Murano and Burano. It takes about 45 minutes and passes several other small islands in the lagoon.
Cost: A one-way ticket costs €7.50 but if you plan on visiting a few islands on the same day then you may want to consider buying a 24-hour island pass for €20. You can find more information on fares and the different lines here.
When to go: Burano attracts a lot of tourists and although it’s a lot quieter than Venice, it’s still best to get up early and catch one of the first vaporettos to the island. We took the 9am water bus and were able to enjoy the peace and quiet for a few hours before other tourists started arriving in large groups in the afternoon.
Burano may only be 45 minutes from Venice but it has such a different feel to the city. If you have a few days in Venice then a trip to this unique rainbow island should definitely be on your list.
Love from Steph
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