One of the absolute highlights of Venice, in my view, is the island of Burano with its colourful houses. You can get here fairly easily, by ferry of course, for example on the line 12 from the Fondamente Nove in the north-east of the main island. It takes around 45 minutes on the boat to get to the island, via the equally interesting and probably better known island of Murano.
As a matter of fact, it’s a good idea to combine a trip to both of these islands on one day. You have the choice to get off at Murano first, see the treasures of this historic glass manufacturing centre, the glass selling shops, the museum, have a peaceful lunch by the water, before continuing your journey to Burano.
However, I recommend going all the way to Burano first, before the crowds arrive, to catch some of the tranquility and the unspoilt beauty of the island.
Burano, it seems, is almost untouched by tourism, yet is almost too beautiful to be true. We stroll through the quiet streets, no cars of course, and marvel at the bright and colourful houses all around us. This is what Burano is most famous for: the houses on this Venetian island are painted in all colours of the rainbow, with a brilliance and boldness that I believe is unmatched anywhere in the world.
Pinks are met by blues with a hint of green. There’s deep orange next to purple, and oxblood red next to mint green. It is as if a child had taken over when picking the colour palette for this island, it is playful, cheerful, and surprisingly elegant. As I learn only now as I am doing my research for this blog post, the colours follow a century-old pattern, and any request for patching up some paintwork needs to be approved by the government which will suggest a number of colours to choose from.
The houses are in top condition, looked after by the residents that have their washing, cloths and curtains flapping in the wind, geraniums planted on the window sills, brooms neatly fixed to the walls. It is still quiet, as it is so early in the morning, just a couple of women chatting in front of their houses with their neighbours. We walk past lazy cats, deserted playgrounds by the water, small gardens, quiet canals. We don’t need a map, we just walk.
But Burano is not only famous for its colourful houses. It is also a great place to buy handmade lacework such as ribbons, table cloths with intricate designs, framed portraits, flowers, butterflies and Venetian city views to hang on the walls. There’s a difference in quality, depending on your budget, the seller explains to us. The more expensive pieces are handmade, real local artwork. They come at a price. And for a souvenir, this is where your money should go. If you don’t have that kind of money, the machine-made versions will do. They are equally pretty and you won’t know the difference unless you start comparing them to the hand-made ones.
Before we leave this beautiful island we enjoy a lovely cup of cappuccino in a piazza and watch the few passers-by, locals and tourists alike.
Colour is like music, reads a tile glued to one of the colourful Burano houses. Oh, how true that is!