Burano: Italy’s Most Colorful Island

As Venice gets overrun by day trippers from mid-morning to late afternoon, smart travelers escape to Burano, Murano and a couple of other islands in the Venetian Lagoon. The best time of the day to visit Venice is very early in the morning—sunrise—or late in the evening—sunset to midnight, which is when the city is at its calmest and quietest. The light happens to be the best for photography during those times as well, which is excellent if you’re a keen photographer.

canal in Burano

Incredibly colorful street and canal in Burano

Midday in Venice is best avoided. Luckily, there are plenty of other options. Nearby places that are well-worth visiting on a day trip from Venice are Murano, famous for its glass-blowing, and Burano, well-known for its lace-making and brightly colored fisherman’s houses.

Both islands are super-easy to reach from Venice by “vaporetto”, the typical waterbuses that travel around and between the islands. The waterbus ride from Venice to Burano takes about 40 minutes, offering pretty amazing views of what I think is the world’s most beautiful city when leaving and, later, approaching again. The Fondamente Nove station, located near the hospital, is where the direct boats between Venice and Burano depart and leave—line 12 is the one you need. Fondamente Nove station can be reached by water bus, as well as on foot from the railway station, Grand Canal and anywhere else in Venice, really. From the railway station, both water bus line 4.2 and line 5.2 commute to Fondemente Nove.

houses in Burano

All colors of the rainbow are represented in the houses in Burano

The Isle of Burano

Burano, just like Venice, is often considered to be one island, while it actually consists of four islands, separated by picturesque canals and interconnected by scenic bridges—it is effectively a small archipelago. But for reasons of convenience, let’s keep referring to it as an island.

The island of Burano was most likely settled during Roman times, but didn’t gain any importance until the 16th century. That was when the island’s women started making lace—lace-making had just been introduced to Venice by traders from Cyprus, which was ruled by Venice at the time. Because of its labor-intensive and time-consuming characteristics, traditional lace-making is done by only a handful of people on the island nowadays. There are, however, numerous lace shops on the island, taking advantage of the recent influx of tourists. Although in its heyday Burano was inhabited by about 8,000 people, today 3,000 people live on the island. Many of them are still fishermen; others own stores, restaurants and taverns.

Lace shop in Burano

One of many lace shops in Burano

While lace is a typical feature of Burano, the island’s main attraction is its superb colors. The houses lining the narrow canals and cobbled streets are painted in the brightest colors imaginable—literally every color is represented, as each neighboring house is painted in a different color. Even to this day, anyone who wants to paint his or her house must submit a request to the local government, who, according to the coloring system that dates from Burano’s 16th-century Golden Age, decides which colors may be used for that specific house. Virtually every house in Burano has the same lay-out. Typically, they consist of two to three floors and are roughly shaped as square. Bedrooms are generally located upstairs, while the kitchen and bathroom are on the lower floor.

A Burano canal

Boats fill a canal lined with brightly colored houses

When visiting Burano, it is hard not to be overwhelmed by the sheer spectacle that those colors put up. While it’s not a particularly large island, many visitors will spend a lot of time stopping to take pictures. Around every street corner, another incredibly photogenic sight awaits. No place could be better for a day trip from Venice than Burano. It is possible to wander around and across the island in only a couple of hours, leaving plenty of time for taking pictures and taking a seat at one of the terraces that line the streets for some world-class people-watching. Additional attractions in the island include the obvious Museum and School of Lace-Making, the Town Hall and the Church of San Martino with its leaning tower.

Tower of the Church of San Martino, Burano

The tower of the Church of San Martino overlooks the town center

While many renowned magazines include Burano in their lists of “the most colorful cities in the world”, it is almost without question the world’s most colorful island. So, whenever you feel overwhelmed by the claustrophobic crowds of midday Venice, remember that there is a quieter and absolutely gorgeous place just a scenic “vaporetto” ride away…

Written by and photos by Bram Reusen for EuropeUpClose.com

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  1. says

    Fun pictures and good advice. As gorgeous of a city as it is, Venice can get downright unpleasant at times with the crowds. A short vaporetto ride to Burano and you can get away from the type of tourists who buy gifts made in China. Bonus: it’s attractive, interesting, and I bought a lovely lace vest!

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