Visit the technicolor island of Burano, Italy

A wonder for both the eyes and the taste buds

Created date

December 13th, 2018
Colorful rowhomes over the river at sunset

On your next trip to Venice, why not leave the crowds behind and take a 45-minute vaporetto (water bus) trip to picturesque Burano, one of 118 small islands that fill the Venetian Lagoon between Italy’s Po and Piave Rivers.

Venice, Italy, is pure magic. From the romance of a gondola ride to the splendor of ancient piazzas, everywhere you look, there is something to marvel at.

In recent years, however, Venice has been overrun by tourists—as many as 60,000 a day by some estimates.

On your next trip to Venice, why not leave the crowds behind and take a 45-minute vaporetto (water bus) trip to picturesque Burano, one of 118 small islands that fill the Venetian Lagoon between Italy’s Po and Piave Rivers.

Color everywhere

What is there to see in Burano? Let’s start with color! Rows of homes painted in bright bold hues line narrow canals filled with equally vibrant fishing boats.

According to ancient lore, fishermen painted their boats to match the color of their homes. That way, should tragedy arise while a fisherman was out on the water, authorities would know which house to visit with the bad news.

Fishing continues to be the major occupation for the men of Burano, but what Burano is most known for is the work of its women. Since the early 1500s, the women of Burano have produced extraordinary lace.

Hundreds of years ago, a single piece of lace required the work of seven highly skilled lace makers, each specializing in a single stitch. As one lace maker finished her part, she passed the work along to the next lace maker.

It took Burano’s lace makers two years to create a precious lace collar worn by Louis XIV, king of France, at his coronation in 1654.

Today the women of Burano carry on the ancient lacemaking tradition, and you can purchase their creations at stores all over the tiny island.

One of Burano’s finest lace purveyors is Martina Vidal. Inside the elegant store you will still find older women creating fine lace just as their great-great-grandmothers did.

Not surprisingly, the lace tablecloths, bed linens, and lingerie sold at Martina Vidal are quite expensive, but those who can afford it will leave with something sure to become a family heirloom.

Fresh seafood

Burano offers visitors the freshest of seafood. For lunch, try sardines in saor, a local specialty. Made with fresh sardines marinated in vinegar, then broiled or fried, it is the Italian equivalent of bar food. However, this humble dish becomes the star of the show each July during the annual Festa del Redentore, which celebrates the end of a plague that ravished the area in the 1500s.

In the evening, try Trattoria al Gatto Nero, one of the few island restaurants open for dinner.

Start the meal with a festive glass of prosecco, a sparkling wine that originated in the Veneto region. It is the perfect accompaniment to the Trattoria al Gatto Nero’s spectacular first course identified on the menu as the “Al Gatto Nero Experience.” It’s a generous selection of fresh fish from the Venetian Lagoon selected and created by the restaurant’s owner Ruggero Bovo.

For the main course, don’t pass up an opportunity to try the island’s specialty, risotto Burano-style, a delicate rice dish made with ghiozzi, a small long-bodied fish with a mild taste found in the lagoon.

You will certainly be full by the end of the meal, but save some room to sample Burano’s special shortbread-like cookie, the bussolà.

Wander around

Most visitors spend just a few hours in Burano. In the late afternoon, scores of tourists board the last vaporetto headed back to Venice and the island streets empty.

This is the perfect time to wander around town with your camera. With the setting sun’s golden rays illuminating Burano’s vibrant buildings, you are sure to capture stunning images.   

Stroll across an ancient wooden bridge on the edge of town and you will find yourself on the even smaller island of Mazzorbo, home of Venissa, an ancient estate surrounded by medieval walls.

The estate has been restored by the Bisols, a family of vintners credited with producing the area’s best prosecco for centuries.

They have turned their ancient estate into a foodie paradise, offering guests incomparable dining experiences in their Michelin-starred restaurant and modern osteria.

Casa Burano

If you’re spending the night, you will no doubt stay in Casa Burano, the island’s only lodging. From the outside, the building is indistinguishable from the rest of the town. It does not seem like a hotel at all.

Go inside and you find yourself in a serenely modern environment. Casa Burano showcases the marvelous craftsmanship of modern Italian design, from the high-tech bathroom outfitted with a multi-spray shower and deep Jacuzzi tub to the lighting and furnishings in the stylish yet comfortable bedroom.

In the morning, wander downstairs to the small communal kitchen where you will find a picnic basket packed with fresh croissants, homemade yogurt, fresh fruit and juice. Everything you’ll need to sustain you for the vaporetto ride back to the hustle and bustle of Venice.