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On your next trip to majestic Venice, be sure to take time out from the crowds and the grand palazzos by escaping to the more humble, quaint island of Burano, one of Italy’s best-kept secrets. This small, tranquil archipelago is located in the same glittering lagoon as Venice but is worlds apart in terms of atmosphere, pace and colour palette.
Burano’s most distinguishing characteristic is its rainbow architecture. Unlike Venice’s typical apartments, that largely remain in original stone, the terracotta roof cottages of Burano have all been painted in bright hues, creating a multicoloured, dreamlike village. It is commonly believed that the origins of this cheerful aesthetic tradition are linked to one of the island’s historic trades: fishing. They say that fisherman purposefully painted their houses so that they could still see them while out at sea.
Many of the buildings predate Venice’s ‘Golden Age’ that began in the 1500s and therefore are protected by the Italian Government. Before painting their dwellings, Burano residents are obliged to ask permission from the authorities, who then also prescribe the colours the homeowners can use. The palette ranges from pastel pink to deep, emerald green, from mustard to shocking violet, turquoise to scarlet.
Burano’s narrow streets, joined by bridges, are romantic and quaint yet not saccharine. The island very much belongs to the locals and this is evident in the washing that hangs out of the windows, the old bikes parked freely on the pavement, and the people chatting or curtain-twitching in the doorways.
In addition to fishing, lacemaking is another important and historical Burano trade. Beginning in the 16th century, Burano garnered a reputation for the finest lace – apparently Leonardo Da Vinci paid a visit to Burano in order to purchase lace cloth for part of the altar in Milan’s majestic Gothic cathedral, Il Duomo, and King Louis XIV of France wore a Burano lace collar at his coronation. Burano’s women residents still practice lace-making today and many of the shops sell their handiwork.
The laid-back, somewhat old-fashioned atmosphere of Burano makes it the perfect place to stroll aimlessly and slowly, until you need to stop for coffee, gelato or lunch. Ordering the fish is obviously highly recommended.
As you can imagine, the architecture of Burano is now an Instagram icon, but we urge you to look beyond your square lens and take in the subtler charms of this mesmerising, beautiful island.
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