Isola di Burano, is renowned for its lace work and picturesque brightly coloured homes. Its primary economy is now tourism and is a popular destination; often combined with a visit to the other islands of Murano and Torcello,  

 


 

Above: Isola di Burano, with the leaning Campanile of the Cathedral of San Martino Vescovo

INTRODUCTION

Isola di Burano, is renowned for its lace work and picturesque brightly coloured homes. Its primary economy is now tourism and is a popular destination; often combined with a visit to the other islands of Murano and Torcello,

Burano is about 11 kilometres north-east of Venice and can be reached in only 45 minutes, by frequent water bus services from the city.

It is a small and almost circular island of about 21 hectares; but now has around 2500 inhabitants. No island in the lagoon of Venice, has a higher population density; so there are few green spaces.

Fortunately, Burano has still preserved some of the charm and character of a fishing village, until today. Every point of the island can be reached by foot in about 10 minutes from the vaporetto stop. There are no cars or motorbikes on Burano.

However, Burano is connected by a single bridge, with the neighbouring island of Mazzorbo.  It is about the same size, but sparsely populated. Here the inhabitants of Burano can find peace, with many green spaces and no cars – only bicycles.

Originally, there were five islands and a fourth canal, that was filled-in to become the main street and square of Baldassare Galuppi; so joining the former islands of San Martino Destra and San Martino Sinistra.

Burano has historically been subdivided into five “sestieri”, much like Venice. They correspond to the five original islands. The sixth sestiere, is neighbouring Mazzorbo.

(Note. Baldassare Galuppi (18 October 1706 – 3 January 1785) was a Venetian composer, born on the island of Burano. He belonged to a generation of composers, including Johann Adolph Hasse, Giovanni Battista Sammartini, and C. P. E. Bach; whose works are emblematic of the prevailing “galant” music that developed in Europe throughout the 18th century. He achieved international success, spending periods of his career in Vienna, London and Saint Petersburg; but his main base remained Venice, where he held a succession of leading appointments).

 

Sestiere Area Population Density   Map of Sestiere
San Mauro 6.8 ha 818 12,029    
Giudecca 2.5 ha 255 10,200  
San Martino Sinistra 4.4 ha 586 13,318  
San Martino Destra 5.1 ha 759 14,882  
Terranova 2.3 ha 359 15,609  
Burano (Island) 21.1 ha 2,777 13,176  
Mazzorbo 51.8 ha 329 635  

 

HISTORY

In early Roman times, the island was probably sparsely populated by itinerant fisherman, hunters and agricultural workers.

Escaping the barbarian invasions, the inhabitants of Altino took refuge in the various islands of the lagoon; giving them the names of the six gates of the city –  Murano, Mazzorbo, Burano, Torcello, Ammiana and Costanziaco.

The name Burano derives from the “Porta Boreana”, so called because it is located to the Northeast; the direction from which the bora wind blows. It could be possible, that the continuous ventilation of the island, managed to keep malaria away.

Although the island soon became a thriving settlement, it was administered from Torcello and had none of the privileges of that island or of Murano.  It was an island of predominately poor people, who lived mainly from fishing and agriculture.

Burano rose in importance only in the 16th century, when women on the island began making lace with needles; a skill introduced from Venetian-ruled Cyprus. The lace was soon exported across Europe, but trade began to decline in the 18th century and the industry did not revive until 1872; when a school of lacemaking was opened. Lacemaking on the island boomed again, but today, only a handful of older ladies now make lace in the traditional manner; as it is extremely time-consuming and therefore expensive. Consequently, much of the lace you see being sold in Burano’s stores today; is machine made in Asia, to the local style.

There is also a production of Venetian masks and occasional small factory outlets selling Murano glass. Many inhabitants of the island work in nearby Murano.

 

GETTING THERE 

From Venice, there is a fast direct service of Line 12, from either San Zaccaria near to St Mark’s Square; or from the Fondamente Nuove on the north coast. They run frequently and the journey takes around 45 minutes – basically Murano (Faro stop only) – Burano – Punte Sabbioni.

It is also easily accessible from Treporti (10 minutes) and Punta Sabbioni (30 minutes), a town in the municipality of Cavallino-Treporti that overlooks the lagoon.

If you only have a short stay in Venice, there is an excellent low-cost option. 

This is is a guided boat trip to the 3 islands of Murano, Burano and Torcello. On the journey there is commentary in several languages (including English) about the islands and the lagoon. The islands are visited without a guide. The boat ticket is already included at the price of 20 euros. The tour starts near St. Mark’s Square in the old town.

Getting off the vaporetto in Burano, you are in a green space; featuring sculpture by the local artist, Remigio Barbaro. Everything is within 10-15 minutes walk from here.

 

COLOURFUL HOUSES

The typical houses of the island are mostly rectangular in shape and are divided into two or three floors.

The colours of the houses, which today have become the main feature of the island, once served to delineate the properties.  Legend has it that it was the fishermen who painted their homes; in order to recognise them from afar, during frequent misty conditions in the lagoon. In fact, the colour choice allowed to externally decorate properties, is tightly controlled and government authorisation is required.

One of the best viewpoints of the colorful houses, that extend along the canals, is from the “Three Bridges“, a wooden bridge that connects three banks. It offers panoramic views, with the colours of the houses reflected on the canal water, the leaning bell tower overlooking the island and the sun setting behind the old fish-market site; with Venice in the distant background.

Another well-known place for artists and photographers is “the House of Bepi Suà(left) painted with many colours and divided into geometric shapes and symbols.

Bepi’s house now appears in many postcards and in Burano-related information websites. It is without doubt, the islands most colourful house.

He is gone, but is remembered as an eccentric man; a collector many old objects such as TV and film recorders and always spent his afternoon’s painting geometric shapes on the front of his house.

The house has been restored and its external facade remains unchanged.

 

LACE-MAKING

If you want an idea of what lace was like in the time when it was all done by hand, you’ve still got some options.

If you’re especially fascinated by lace and textiles, stop at the “Museo del Merletto”, a museum with some excellent examples of 16th and 17th-century lace; along with the beautiful, lace-trimmed gown worn by Queen Margherita, the Jackie Kennedy of late 19th-century Italy. It is located on Piazza Baldassare Galuppi; opposite the church. In the same building is also the “Lace School of Burano“. In the school you can watch, ladies embroidering lace during a visit to the museum. Unfortunately, it is a dying art, as very few ladies now keep the tradition going; some of the ladies come daily to the museum.

Opening hours. (please check details because of Covid-19 restrictions).

Summer: from April to October from 10 a.m. to 6.0 p.m.  Winter: 10am to 5.0pm.

The museum is always closed on Mondays and a few important public holidays.

Entrance fee: Eu 5, with concessions to student and children under 6 years free of charge. Larger groups can also arrange special opening hours.

Another excellent lace shop on the main street is“La Perla” (photo above), located on Via Galuppi 376; where handmade products range from tablecloths and doilies, to Venetian masks and babies’ booties. Inside, ladies can often be seen demonstrating their craft; so you can get an idea of how it’s done.

 

THE CHURCHES – PAST AND PRESENT

Apart from the current Cathedral of San Martino Vescovo, every district of Burano contained churches and their respective monasteries. They were all demolished; except for one church, which was deconsecrated and restored and now houses the seat of the Burano District Council (the church of the “Capuccine”).

One of the oldest was the church and monastery of San Mauro, dedicated to the martyr and erected between 888 and 912; at the time of Doge Pietro Tribuno. Dated 1347, the church and the monastery of SS. Cyprian and Cornelius.  Dated 1488, the church and monastery of San Vito and finally in 1533, the church of the Capuccine and the monastery of Santa Maria delle Grazie.

Cathedral of San Martino Vescovo.

After 1000, the parish church of Burano became that of San Martino, bishop of Tours. Rebuilt several times, it took its present appearance between 1500-1600 and was consecrated on 29 October 1645; by Marco Antonio Martinengo, the bishop of Torcello,

Over the centuries it underwent several restorations. In 1867, the crumbling central nave was renovated, while preserving the ancient architecture. In 1874, it was the vault of the side aisles and the central cross of the transept. In May 1913, a fire destroyed the ceiling of the main nave and on that occasion, the organ was also destroyed. It was the work of Callido, built in 1767 and was considered to be one of the finest church masterpieces of the Serenissima. In October of the same year, it was replaced with the current one, with more than 2000 pipes; produced by the Mascioni company of Cuvio.

Seen from the outside (left), the church lacks a main entrance; in fact one enters laterally through a Renaissance door, near the Chapel of Santa Barbara. The entrance consists of a large atrium, which houses a statue of the Madonna, attributed to Girolamo Bonazza, who lived in the 18th century.

The interior in Lombard-Baroque style, has a Latin cross shape, with three naves ending in a chapel divided by neoclassical pillars, that support full-arch arches and end in Corinthian-style capitals. The pavement, with red and white square stones, is typical of sacred buildings.

The central nave, including the presbytery and choir, is about 47 meters long and has a barrel ceiling, except for the central part, which has a cross vault. At the head of the central nave is the high altar, adorned with six elegant columns of red French marble and four others of ancient oriental marble. Built in 1673, it has the shape of a large baroque style tabernacle, on top of which is the bronze statue of the ” Risen Christ “.

On the sides, are the statues of Sant’Albano and San Martino, both works by Girolamo Bonazza

Campanile.  By Tirali, built between 1703-14. Significantly leaning; it is a central landmark, that can be seen throughout the island.

Significant Artwork.  The 18th century “Crucifixion” by Tiepolo; as well as many other features and art of interest.

Opening times:
Monday to Sunday 8.00am-12.00pm; 15.00-18.00pm. Free Entry.  Situated on Piazza Galuppi.

 

FOOD AND DRINK

Burano, is a working fishing island and is noted for its fish dishes. It is also renowned for its donut shaped “bussolai” pastries

There are at least 15 taverna style restaurants, to satisfy your appetite and prices are better value than in Venice.  There are also fast-food and snack outlets and a couple of small supermarkets, if your budget and time is tighter.

Probably the best and most famous restaurant on Burano is the “Al Gato Nero” (The Black Cat). It is a top-class restaurant, with appropriate quality and prices; which has received many awards. The island of Burano in Italy is generally known for its risotto and amongst the great appetizers here is “risotto di gò” a fish risotto with small gobies. As a main course you can try the “mixed fish plate”. Opening hours: Monday closed, Sunday only in the evening. Fondamente della Giudecca 88. Tel: +39 041 730120 for reservations, which are recommended.

A typical buranella restaurant that can be recommended at a medium price; is the “Al Vecio Pipa” (The Old Pipe). Other notable “osterie” include: Al Fureghin, Riva Rosa, Ai Pescatori, Cafè Vecio, Da Primo, and Da Forner 

Fast food places recommended, are the pizzeria, “Pizza Take Away Devil”.  Another is called “Fritto Misto”; directly opposite the vaporetto jetty, with meal and drink deals – ideal if you have to wait for the ferry.

 

Please see my other posts in the series “Islands of the Lagoon”: HERE

 

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