Travel

The Cheeriest Little Island

Burano

by Wendy VanHatten

Burano, an island in the northern Venetian Lagoon, has been referred to as one of the most colorful places on earth. Approaching Burano from Venice, it’s easy to see why. Brightly colored houses, every single one of them, pop against the water of the channels. At first glance, their narrow streets and impossibly bright colors appear almost tropical. One more look and you feel like you’ve just stepped into a postcard view, as small boats line both sides of the canals and the bright colors rise above.

Legend has it the houses were painted brightly so returning fishermen could see them from long distances.

When you take the vaporetto from Venice, get off at the small island of Mazzorbo, just one stop before Burano. Walk past the 14th century church of Santa Caterina, a local vineyard, and a park. Cross the foot bridge connecting the two islands and it’s easy to walk the island from one end to the other. Check out the Museo del Merletto or lace museum, Galuppi Square, and the campanile of the San Martino church. Now take a look from another angle of the campenile and see how it leans. Yep, they have their own leaning tower.

The pace is slow here; slower than Venice. Flower boxes, overflowing with flowers, offer sweet scents. Laundry, hanging from second story windows, is just as common as open shutters. Bikes, sitting by doorways, wait for their owners. Cats, posing for their close-up photos, lazily groom their faces. This is a real island with real Venetians living their lives. You just happen to be their visitor for the day.

With tiny streets opening up to small squares and eventually to the island’s main square, you’ll find tourists mingling with locals chatting and drinking espresso or spritz. Elderly ladies work on their embroidery as children whisk in and out. Find a little wider spot and you’ll find an impromptu soccer game.

Lace making used to be a main industry with Burano lace exported worldwide. Leonardo da Vinci supposedly came here to shop for cloth to use at the main altar of the Duomo di Milano. Making lace was an exacting endeavor and each lady specialized in one stitch. One stitch. Each piece, tablecloth, or shawl required seven different ladies to complete the stitching. You can imagine how long it took to finish.

Today most inhabitants are fishermen and that’s why you’ll have a fantastic lunch of the freshest seafood. A couple of restaurants have been featured on food shows around the world. If you visit during a street market day, be sure to look at the fish to catch a glimpse of typical Venetian Lagoon seafood.

It won’t take you long to walk the entire island, but take some time to wander away from the main squares to find a small bar to sip your espresso or spritz and people watch. Eat lunch here and sample the local catch of the day or fantastic risotto.

Take photos…lots of photos. Remember, it’s one of the most colorful places in the world.

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