During our time in Venice (Italy) we came across the most unique and colourful island we’ve ever come across. Situated within the Venetian lagoon and a 40 minutes ferry ride from the main area of St Marco square is the quaint island called Burano. The island is actually a set of four islands which are connected by various bridges, like how Venice is considered one island – yet is made up of several sub islands. The name is almost similar to the other Venetian island of Murano (note the M instead of the B), which is world famous for its artisan glass works. The ferry on the way to Burano takes in the bask expanse of the lagoon and the other islands that are just a stone’s throw from the main Venetian island.
Upon arriving into Burano, we were immediately impressed by the vista of the colour spectrum of the houses from the arriving ferry into the port. Each of the buildings on the connecting islands are strikingly painted in an assortment of colours and each house has a colour which is different to the next. From what I’ve read the colouring of the houses dates back in time when the island was home to mariners and the colourful facades of the island assisted them to find the island easily (especially when there would be less than ideal weather). The colours would also identify their homes, as each of the homes colour are mandated to be the same to in the same precinct so one would not confuse their home with another. This practice still occurs even up to now, where the Italian municipality of Venice mandates the colouring of the buildings and also overlooking the maintenance of recolouring of the buildings on the island.
Being summer (we were there in Mid June), there was many a few tourists wandering the island and exploring the many shops that were open. The locals understand the compromise of a loss of privacy and at time intrusion by the visiting tourists, so to curb this they put sheeting over their doorways and utilise privacy blinds in their windows. The locals are beyond friendly though and when we had some questions as to what were the recommended sights on the island, they were all too happy to share some of the insights into their way of living and what made the island so special. As you walk around the island, the picturesque panorama just grips you and you are left wanting just to sit down and take it all in.
Space appeared to be a luxury on the island as the home are wall-to-wall style with a small from garden for some with a possible quaint backyard to suit (this depends on the home layout). The occupants of the houses which had their entrance straight off the walking avenues, had taken the liberty of arranging a lush and striking garden setting at each of their front entrances. All the pants would be potted colour of geraniums, edible vegetable plants and other drought hardy Mediterranean plants. As an avid gardener and appreciative of garden design, the way of how the residents have complemented the colourful buildings with their plant selection is inspirational. The home owners have great pride in the places they live in and whilst they have not had many of the commercialised material goods in larger mainstream cities, they make up for it by living an enriching and rewarding lifestyle (from what it appeared to seem like in the summertime we visited anyway).
There are many shops which line the so called more retail areas of the island ranging from quaint eateries, clothing stores, gelato stores to the islands most famous lace creations. Like how Murano is famous for their glass artisanship, Murano is equally as famous for their lace crafts and other lace creations. Lace came to the island when Cyprus ruled the Venetian area in the 16th century and women on the island started to take up the fine needlework craft. We browsed through one of the lace stores on the island which was owned by a Latin American man and his wife. They mentioned that life in spring and summer on the island is quite lively, but come winter the inclement weather puts the island into hibernation (that’s how it was described to us anyway). This could be one of the pitfalls of living on Burano, where the seasonal cycle can create some challenges for the locals. The man mentioned as well that the lace creations are quite time consuming to create and this would be why the lace creations we came across had a premium price assigned to the goods. The craft has become in a way reliant on the tourist dollars that come in the warmer months of the year, which is why it is advisable to support the artisans and make a purchase to support the history of the island into the future. This is especially important with the competing importation of cheaper mass produced Chinese made lace goods (similar to how there are cheaper mass produced Venetian masks streaming into the island from China, in direct competition with the more premium locally made masks).
Another shop we came across the island near the ferry wharf, where the artist has many of their vibrant artworks becoming the arriving tourists. On our first time we travelled to the island, we were negligent in making a purchase at the artists store, but then afterwards past closing time , we soon realised we made a poor decision. This allowed us an excuse to revisit the island for a second time the day after, which turned out to be a pleasant consequence. My recommendation is if you see something on the island which catches your eye – buy it before you regret!
As mentioned before, Burano is technically made up of four sub islands all connected to each other. This creates the wonderful canals which pass straight through the heart of the considered island. The locals utilise the canals as a vital life line to bring in household goods from nearby Lido or the main Venice Island. The canals are service as a convenient access point for the locals to moor their small boats, where many of the locals’ boat use its vital to maintain a connection to the mainland. The island’s canals can appear to be congested at times and it was quite interesting to witness them manoeuvre around each other, like a real life game of Tetris. With some friendly communication and an understanding of the setting they live in, traffic in the canals is managed effectively. Living in such close proximity to one another the locals who live on the island appear to have a great support system and a great sense of community. You see many neighbours inviting each other for lunch and also having their doors open, letting the cool sea breeze through their homes – with little worry for security.
The island of Burano is truly special and when we arrived to Venice, we heard little of the island or had later noticed that the island was not promoted as well as it could be. It definitely paid to take the 40 minute ferry journey to the island and get off the well worn mainstream Venetian commercial trail. Looking back at the photos and my experience of visiting the island, it reminds me that simple living and close communities are most often overlooked in our busy lives. We could learn a thing or two from how the residents of Burano live, play and work.