Postcards from Italy: A Day Photographing the Island of Burano
The first time I visited Venice, in 2008, I was incredibly sick and it took everything I had to get up and walk let alone photograph anything. (Admittedly, I would venture a guess that this was more taxing for my mother, who was traveling with me, given I’m no fun to be around when I’m sick.) Sadly, while we got to explore some of the amazing back canals that I mentioned in my previous post about Venice, we never ventured off to other parts of the province, including Burano.
Thankfully, when my husband and I planned our recent trip to Italy, given we are both artists who crave color, we knew we had to plan a day trip to this whimsically colorful island. For me to be able to photograph the amazing homes, and for Joe to be able to be inspired by the colors for his own work meant Burano needed to be a priority.
Burano, named one of the, “most beautiful places to visit,” by Forbes magazine, and immediately recognized by it’s tell-tale colorful homes, is a part of the Province of Venice and one of several islands in the province. The island, today home to about 2,000 full-time residents, was settled in the 6th century, and started as a fishing village by those fleeing invaders of the mainland. To this day, it largely remains a fishing village as the Venetian Lagoon provides a great deal of seafood for its residents and visitors alike. That said, a trip to one of its several trattorias serving seafood is definitely in order should you decide to visit. The Trattoria al Gatto Nero, known for its handmade pasta and beautiful blue facade, is Burano’s most famous restaurant specializing in seafood. It draws quite the crowd though so plan ahead.
Burano rose in prominance in the 16th century when it began creating and exporting intricate lace designs used in linens and clothes (and yes, there is a lace museum on the island, if you are so inclined to visit!)
To say that the island of Burano is “cheery,” is like saying a cold glass of water on a really hot day is, “mildly refreshing.” Joe and I were immediately enthralled with the gorgeous pops of color of almost every house. Legend has it that Burano’s fisherman painted their homes in bright colors so they could see them from their boats, through thick fog, while out fishing. Regardless of why they paint them, they’re amazing, and I actually found myself not only artistically inspired, but getting slightly choked up at the beauty of it all.
If you are wondering how the colors are determined, there is an official process that takes place when you want to paint your home. Anyone wishing to do so is required to send a official letter to the governing body and they reply with the selection of colors that are allowed for that particular home. This allows for a distinct pattern of colors that dates back to when the island was first formed. (it also helps you avoid that embarrassing moment when you realize your house is painted the exact same color as your neighbors. Awkward!!)
The island can easily be accessed by a quick 45 minute, rather inexpensive, Vaporetto ride across the Venetian Lagoon. The number 12 ferry runs every half an hour from Fondament Nove, and also makes stops at Burano’s neighboring island Murano. I do not recommend taking a private taxi from Venice to Burano, but then again, I wouldn’t even recommend doing that to travel around Venice. There are so many less expensive options, especially the Vaporetto. The return from Burano is just as easy, taking the Vaporetto line 9 which will also stop on the island of Torcello which was originally considered more prominent than Burano however is now nearly abandoned.
We visited Italy in October which meant tourist season was not quite over but also not in full swing. The temperatures were perfect, the crowd size was bearable, especially when you wandered away from Via Galuppi, the island’s main street, and seasonal shops and ristorantes were still open. It was truly a respite from the noise of Venice’s Grand Canal as, on many occasions, we found ourselves the only two people around. Here in Chicago that might be concerning, depending on where you find yourself; in Burano, it was simply peaceful. In many cases, the only sign that people were truly there was the wonderfully whimsical lines of laundry hanging from the buildings.
Where Venice provides a light that, in my humble opinion, is unmatched anywhere, Burano provides an array of colors that can spark your soul and inspire creativity. We could have easily walked around there for many more hours and never been bored.
It is evident, as you walk around Burano, that it’s inhabitants take great pride in their homes, as even those that look a little time and weather worn are truly beautiful. The island itself, despite being a go to place for tourists of Venice, is very clean and safe. Like any place, you should always be aware of your surroundings, and protect your belongings, but we definitely felt at peace while we took in this gem.
While we opted to stay in Venice and take the short boat ride to Burano, there is one hotel on the island, Casa Burano, and many AirBnB options if you decide to spend more than a day exploring. I have heard that night on the island is most amazing as the tourists are all but gone and you get to see an even more peaceful and homey side to the island that you wouldn’t otherwise.
If you are planning to take a trip to Venice, I truly hope you will take the time to take in the beauty and tranquility of Burano. It is a trip well worth taking and, for me, it was one of the best memories of our trip to Italy.
For more Burano photographs, as well as my entire collection of travel and landscape photography from Italy, take a peek at my website, here.