Burano: A Whimsical Italian Island Full Of Colorful Houses

Baked sweets and lace from Burano.

BURANO
PHOTO BECKY CHAO

Burano, with its bright houses arranged in rainbow spectrum, reminds me of a scene from a Dr. Seuss book. No two houses are identical in color, though they may only be a shade or two apart. At times, one house may compose two halves, as if too fickle to choose simply one. The colors follow a specific system, and if the owner wished to paint his house, he must make the proper request to the government. The houses aren’t identical in shape either: stacked next to one another, they create an irregular skyline against the horizon, some taller than others with last-minute addition of an attic of sorts. It makes for a quaint, picturesque, silly kind of place. You would never believe that it was a part of Venice, the magnificent city full of grave, gilded architecture. Indeed, traveling by vaporetto from San Marco, the neighborhood that most embodies the richness of the city, takes a good hour – an hour most definitely worth taking, for the island is a relaxing retreat that the typical tourist is unlikely to visit.

It has the sentiment of a close, friendly community with its residential homes and small, local businesses. Even the air is different from the rest of Venice: canals in the main parts of the city tend to emit a strange odor, a result of the litter and poor circulation of water. Here, the air is clean; rich aromas of fresh, warm bread being baked, luring you into the small bakeries to taste the sweets that stand behind glass unlabeled, and you will stumble to order something, as the person behind the counter understands not a word of English, until you resort to just pointing and nodding – universal gestures that traverse language barriers, just like the smile that meets your eyes as you bite into the treat, its sweetness melting on your tongue and joining your body in a stomach full of content. It certainly brought back childhood memories of indulging my sweet tooth, and I loved the smile that burst out on the baker’s face when he saw my reaction to the treat.

BURANO
PHOTO BECKY CHAO

But Burano is not known for its baked goods: it is known as the lace-making island, with a history stretching from the sixteenth century when women began making lace with needles. In the nineteenth century, a school of lace-making was opened, but now, lace made in the traditional manner is rare as it requires much time, and therefore expensive. There are quite a few shops that offer a wide selection of lace, going at steep prices: the typical rate was eighty Euros for a thin veil of a scarf. I decided against bringing home a scarf as a reminder of this whimsical city: my memories will have to suffice.

Article written by Becky Chao.

BURANO
PHOTO BECKY CHAO

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