Do you remember doing word analogies in school at some point? Well, here’s one for you: Murano is to glass as Burano is to…? Fill in the blank with “lace”. Did you know that this tiny island in the Venetian lagoon is home to the tradition of lace-making that has been practiced for over 500 years? It is also one of the most colorful cities in the world. All it takes to get here is a quick ride from Venice on one of its water buses known as vaporetti.
Laced With Tradition
Pun very much intended here. It seems that all good traditions have fascinating legends behind them and the same is true for Burano’s lace. It is said that a fisherman went out to sea and was almost tempted by a siren’s song. He remained faithful to his bride-to-be who waited for him back home and the siren queen was so impressed with his loyalty that she created an intricate veil for the fisherman’s betrothed out of sea foam. When he returned home, all of the women tried desperately to imitate the fine details, one outdoing the next. And so the lace-making tradition began.
While that may be a legend, it is a fact that around the year 1500, Burano began its lace-making tradition (known as merletto in Italian) in private homes. They didn’t use any sort of canvas for support and the style became known as punto in aria or “stitch in the air”. Complex patterns including geometric shapes, flowers, animals, and scrolls were crafted by expert hands. By the 17th century, they began using the rosette stitch and their work became known throughout Europe, especially France.
A lace school formed and competition increased from French counterparts (although the Burano lace was superior). With the fall of the Serenissima Republic of Venice in the late 1700s, lace-making came to a shrieking halt. About one hundred years later, the craft was revived once again largely due to Cencia Scarpariola.
Today, when you visit, you can pop into numerous privately-owned lace shops and see the women of Burano tediously creating masterpieces with your very own eyes.
The former lace school has become a lace museum and is part of the civic museums of Venice. You can see pieces that are over 500 years old and witness the skill of the merlettaie crafting pieces in the mornings. Visit the museum’s official website for more information and opening hours.
Laced With Color
As already mentioned, Burano’s other outstanding feature is its cheerful, colorful houses. If you read the article about Murano then you know that there is a reason for the whimsical hues. Burano is also a fishing village– actually most of its residents are still fishermen even today- and when the thick fog rolls in and you have to dock your boat, it is much easier to find a bright pink house than a cookie-cutter version of your neighbor’s. The tradition has lasted for hundreds of years and when you decide to repaint your house in a different color, you first must get the stamp of approval from the city. Don’t miss the most famous of them all: la casa di Bepi Suà.
Laced With Charm
Most likely what you will enjoy most about Burano is simply wandering aimlessly about its tiny streets and snapping pictures at every turn. Stop and have an espresso at any of the little cafes and try the famous Bussolà and Esse cookies. These sweets go back hundreds of years and originated as a hearty snack for fishermen at sea when no other food was available.
If you have time for an actual meal at lunch or dinner all of Burano’s restaurants will have the fresh catch of the day on the menu. One of the most famous dishes is risotto di gò made with goby fish broth and butter.
Don’t forget to go inside the Cathedral of San Martino which dates to the 16th century. Inside you’ll find various works by Girolamo Bonazza, an 18th-century artist. There is no main door to the cathedral but instead, you enter from the Chapel of Santa Barbara.
There is nothing not to like about Burano! You will fall in love with its art, color, and charm instantly. And it is so easy to reach that it just might become a new favorite weekend getaway.