Burano, Italy: Most colorful island in the world
Burano is one of many small islands contained within the large Venetian lagoon in the Adriatic Sea. Burano became famous for making the best quality lace. Of course, today, lace is made by machines. Burano is now know as one of the most colorful communities in the world. By law, every single home in Burano has to be painted a different color. With all these homes clustered together, the thousands of shades make for a storybook setting.
Unlike the ageless patina that casts a shadow over Venice, Burano is brilliantly colorful. The island is home to only 2000 residents, yet they welcome nearly one million visitors each year. Most of the visitors come for only a day as there are no hotels on the island, and only a couple of small boutique bed and breakfasts available. While a million people a year sounds like a lot, I found Burano to be significantly less crowded than Venice. The perception of being less crowded may stem from the fact that the streets are wider and there seems to be more open space, allowing for easier pedestrian flow.
I happened upon Burano by chance. I was on a walking tour in Venice and was chatting-up my guide, who recommend I visit Burano. At first, I thought I heard her incorrectly. I thought she said “Murano” (with an “M”), the island famous for glass blowing. With a look of disinterest on my face since I had been there years earlier, I said, “Murano?” “No, Burano with a ‘B,'” she replied. With absolutely no knowledge of this place, I typed some information into my phone that the tour guide provided.
The next day I took an early morning ferry from Venice proper, well past Murano, to the colorful island of Burano. After my fascination with all of the colorful buildings slightly faded, I thought I would head to what made the island famous in the first place, the Lace Museum. While there, I discovered a great deal about the dying art of handmade lace. Lace was once a highly coveted design element for the affluent to show off their wealth. The painstaking process of creating lace is very labor intensive. Some ornate and larger pieces of lace might have taken a person more than a year to stitch/create. Today of course, lace can be made by machines in a matter of seconds and costs a fraction of the price. To my surprise, there were actually a few older ladies on the island still creating handmade lace; one of them had just celebrated her 100th birthday. Once these final women pass on, the art of handmade lace will likely die with them as no younger people are interested in taking up a trade that is no longer desired or in demand.
After lunch at a local bistro, I toured the only art museum on the island. During my visit I had to ask the tour guide a burning question… “Why are all the homes painted with such vibrant and differing colors?” She told me that the legend had it that the tradition was started by fishermen, so they could find their homes during seasonal foggy nights. She went on to tell me that the more likely reason may have had to do with too much vino.
I had to ask a second question…”Who and how are all the paint colors being managed?” “In other words, if it is a law that every house has to be a different color, how is this being recorded so that no one duplicates the same color?”
The woman looked at me a bit bewildered by the question. Little did she know how inquisitive I could be. She shrugged her shoulders and said, “I have no idea.” Intrigued by my question, she asked a local who was also in the gallery, however he only spoke Italian, so she translated for me. The gentleman had no answer to my question and almost seemed a bit put off for the ridiculousness of the inquiry. I then asked one more question…”How long have the homes been painted in such bright colors?” He simply replied, in Italian, “Since the beginning!”
I was on my way to circle back around the island to make sure I didn’t leave any area undiscovered. Burano is not very large, so it doesn’t take that long to explore the entire island. I would say four to five hours is enough time to stroll around, visit a few shops, have lunch, explore a bit more, then hop on a ferry back to your destination. There are some really nice bistros for lunch and some cool shops to peruse. I stopped in one that had some amazing glass art and glass jewelry on display. I spoke with the shopkeeper and learned that much of the work in the store was made by her daughter who lives in Marano.
If you’ve ever been to Burano, please leave a comment below and share your experience.