Italy is known for holding some of the world’s greatest masterpieces of art, culinary traditions and the ancient world. But, amongst these mighty giants are wondrous treasures that remind us that the little charms are just as magical. The island of Burano on the Venetian lagoon is just that. Just a 40 minute boat ride from Venice, Burano is a must see.
Burano is an old fishing village, and the fishing traditions of Burano date back to Roman times. For most of its history, fishing was the main source of income for the island, but the number of fishermen has greatly declined over the years. However, today, you can still go to Burano and be assured that the fish you eat on the island was caught that day by local fishermen. You can also find the fish being sold daily at the historical Rialto Market in Venice. But, do not leave the island of Burano without trying the fish at one of the local restaurants. If you like fish, this may be the best fish you will ever try.
Fishing is, or I should say was, not the only source of income for Burano. The art of lace making has played a large role in Burano’s history. Legend has it that a betrothed fisherman out at sea was given a wedding veil by a siren, and when he gave it to his betrothed; everyone tried to replicate it with needlework. The replications became Burano lace. Burano lace making was greatly admired by the Venetian patrons and even the Royals of the world. King Louis XIV was said to be wearing a Burano lace collar for his coronation and Leonardo Da Vinci purchased a piece for the main altar of the Duomo di Milano. Lace making on the island has declined significantly since its golden age, but you can still see women sitting outside or inside the lace shops creating these beautiful textiles. Burano lace making is truly unique in that it is all 100% handmade, with extravagant designs and detail, and more than likely made by the person you see working before your eyes.
Besides lace making and fishing, what makes Burano different from the rest of the surrounding islands is its rainbow of houses. Though these houses are beautifully painted and look like artwork, the reason for their vivid colors is quite practical. Years ago, the fishermen painted their houses bright colors so when they were coming home in the fog, they knew whose house was whose. That said, the colors of these houses have been in families for centuries. And, if you want to change the color of your house, you have to send in a request to the government. And, if you want to buy a house on the island, good luck with that.
The Island of Burano is full of hidden charm, history and culture. It is truly a treasure and no surprise that it is one of the many beautiful stops on Smithsonian Journeys’ Hidden Venice trip. If you want to visit, sign up today.