According to a study made in 2021 by Uswitch, Burano is one of the 20 most colorful places in the world. The study used color-dropping assessment, Google Searches, and Instagram Hashtags to determine which spots on the globe were the most vibrant from a color point of view. Burano came in as nr. 9.
Burano – A complete guide.
So, I figure I tell you a little about this wonderful island in the northern part of the lagoon, where the mud slowly turns into shallow water. This is where the unbroken water surface starts and south from here the real lagoon shows its width. This part is also where the first settlements of the Venetian lagoon started out. Read on and you will find out more…
Why are the houses on Burano colored so brightly?
First arriving and walking up the main street, Viale Marcello, you immediately notice the bright colors, one for each house. And you might wonder, why did they do that? Why on earth did they start to color each house in such striking hues out here, on the outskirts of the lagoon, among fishermen and farmers? Well, there are three theories:
- And this is maybe the most probable. Hundreds of years ago, Burano wasn’t all that populated. The houses were much further apart and the fisherman coming home from a day or a night on the sea, tired and sleepy, had to find his own house. If you add the fact that this is an area where the mist can get thick as milk in winter, it’s easy to appreciate the benefit of brightly colored houses. It surely helped in avoiding many awkward and maybe objectionable situations. Sometimes an argument including the drinking habits of the fishermen is added to this theory.
- The second theory is based on a need to identify a person and his nickname. In a small community, where the choice of future spouse was somewhat limited, the same names and surnames were used over and over again. A colored house was a way to distinguish one from another.
- The third idea comes from the fact that the tough environment, the humidity, the wind, and the salt, were deteriorating the houses’ facades. So the housewives had to repair and fix, while their husbands were away. They couldn’t wait until the merchant had a delivery of the right paint. Instead, the color was what it was. Later, the many different colors became a characteristic of the island and it became regulated.
The colored houses today.
Nowadays, the colored facades are mostly perfect or almost perfect. The owners put pride in keeping their property in mint condition. If for some reason they would like to change the color, they have to put in a request to the Landscape Authorization Service of the City. They will give you a choice of possible hues depending on the position of the property (Mostly very close to the color already in place).
The history of Burano
Please check out my posts about the history of Venice. In that article, I explain how the barbaric invasions slowly pushed the citizens of the inland towns toward the coast and into the lagoon. The Roman city of Altino had its harbor situated on the island of Tercello, which is just half a mile from Burano. The most natural path was surely Torcello, then Mazzorbo, and Burano, before the fugitives headed over to Sant’Erasmo and finally arrived in Rialto/Venice.
Just like with Venice and we don’t have any archeologic findings on Burano from this period, as the buildings were by wood and reed. The first written documentation is from 840. The Pactum Lotharii was an agreement between the Franks and Venice. In it, the various settlements inside the lagoon are mentioned, and one of them is the island and the people called Burani.
So from the very beginning, they were incorporated into the Venetian Republic. But the island was far away and the industry was mostly fishing and farming. Farming as this area was dryer back then, and more land was over the high water mark and suitable for agriculture.
During the centuries Burano also had two very important features:
- Burano enjoyed a mild and healthy climate thanks to a certain amount of ventilation. This kept diseases like Malaria, and later the Bubonic Plague away.
- The distance to Venice helped to continue keeping infectious diseases, yes, like the Bubonic Plague, away.
The result was a flourishing society especially when the times were difficult in Venice, the Burani could still survive almost untouched by the hardships.
The rise of the profitable Lace industry
It started in the 16th century and reached its peak in the 17th and 18th centuries. Burano lace was admired and sought after by nobles and royals all over Europe. Unlike in many other places, the Burano lace was needle lace.
Lace is a delicate fabric made of yarn or thread in an open weblike pattern, made by machine or by hand. There are many types of lace, such as bobbin lace, crochet lace, knitted lace, and Burano needle lace.
In the 1700s Venetian (Burano) lace declined as a result of the introduction of cheap and easily available machine-made lace. The downward trend continued until 1872 when the Burano authorities decided to take action. They opened an official school of lace making, to preserve and develop the knowledge and local handicraft techniques. The result was a revival of Burano lace.
The school lived on until the late 20th century. Today the building can be visited as the Lace Museum in Piazza Baldassare Galuppi.
Why Burano is an awesome place to spend a few hours
Generally, the islands in the lagoon are awesome destinations for anyone who wants a break from the crowded and somewhat predictable Venice. To visit the smaller islands you often need a bit of planning, but Burano and Torcello are easily reachable by a perfectly normal Vaporetto. And if you’ve invested in some sort of city pass, the additional cost is practically zero.
Although the islands have become significantly more touristic in later years, the feeling is still that of a more lazy and laid-back atmosphere. The hectic running from this to that of Venice is substituted with a pace more in tune with life as a whole. It’s easier to relax on Burano… That’s just the way it is.
… And the island is truly beautiful. Venice is beautiful, but Burano is more so in an Instagrammy and Flickry kind of way.
What to do on Burano
First of all, you should just walk around and enjoy the painted facades. It’s a completely unique experience.
When you’re done with that, stroll very slowly until you reach Pizza Baldassare Galuppi. Here you have all of the few, but awesome attractions of Burano:
- Visit the Church of San Martino, which is today the only consecrated church on the island. It was built in the 17th century and originally housed a series of pictorial works, including a Crucifixion by Giambattista Tiepolo, and a few early works by Giovanni Mansueti. Those are now on display in the Chappel of Saint Barbara close by.
- Attached to the church there is the bell tower. No need to spend unnecessary words on it. You’ll understand what’s so special about it as soon as you see it.
- Then walk over the square to the Lace museum. This was the school of lace until the 1970s. It is very small but if you’re interested in the unique Burano lace tradition it can be interesting… If you’re not, don’t feel bad if you skip it.
- On the square, there is a sculpture of the composer Baldassare Galuppi who was born on Burano.
And when you’re finished at Campo Galuppi, walk away, but walk slowly. Burano is small and around every corner there’s a new and incredibly surprisingly Instagrammable spot. Keep your camera or cell phone ready.
An incredibly romantic scenery.
Continue walking towards the sea (lagoon). You have to cross either Ponte Rosso or Tre Ponti to get to Giudecca. It’s obviously not the same Giudecca as in Venice, but a different one. If you find yourself at the southwest corner you’ll have the option to sit down at Pescaria Vecia and order your favorite drink.
Then, if you are in a twosome company, just continue along the waterfront towards the marina. But walk slowly, really slowly because it’s close and you need to make the stroll last. Stopp, and sit down on the low wall against the water. Hold her/him tighter, feel the cool breeze, kiss and let the infatuation rush through your veins.
This is what young Venetian lovers do and have done for decades. They leave Venice where undiscrete eyes follow them everywhere, and go all the way out to Burano. There they can release their passion and let their love fly free, even if it’s just for a few hours.
Can Burano compete with Venice for an overnight stay?
The only reason to stay overnight on Burano is if you really want to experience Burano, Torcello, Mazzorbo, and maybe more of the northern lagoon. For visiting Venice it’s too far out, and you’ll just be frustrated having to fight to get on board the Vaporetto every morning and evening.
Even so, there are many very good B&Bs on the small island. I would recommend the B&Bs rather than the very few hotels. The major competition in the B&B market should bring rates down and service up. That is not the case for the hotels.
Anyway here are three that I feel I can recommend. All links are affiliate links. That means that when you book, we get a small commission, at no increased cost to you. A way to support us without actually paying anything.
How to get to Burano
From Venice, you take nr.12 from Fondamente Nove. It’s the big Vaporetto (M/B foraneo). If you already visited Murano and want to continue from the Glass Island to Burano, you get on the 12 from Murano Faro.
From Punta Sabbioni or Traporti (Cavallino) you take nr. 14.