Burano is a picturesque island in the northern Venetian Lagoon, famous for its brightly colored houses and handmade lace. With a very different feel and far fewer crowds than Venice, Burano makes a great day trip from La Serenissima, but it's even better if you can spend the night because you'll get to see another side of life on the Venetian Lagoon.
Although earlier Roman remains have been found on Burano, the island was permanently settled in the 6th century by people fleeing hostile invaders on the mainland. Burano is still an active fishing village and its residents have always relied on the lagoon for sustenance. Although the neighboring island of Torcello was politically and strategically more important, it was abandoned and Burano rose to prominence in the 16th century because of the high demand for its lace. Women in Burano have always made thee lace by hand and although lacemaking waned in the 18th century, it was revived in the 19th century. Although Burano is still famous for its lace today, there are only a handful of traditional lacemakers remaining on the island.
Most vistors are drawn to Burano's brightly colored houses that line its boat-filled canals. The tradition of painting houses in this manner is said to relate to the island's heritage as a fishing village—the bright colors made it easier for returning fishermen to find their homes in the thick fog of the lagoon. It is also said that the Burano residents favor the bright paint as a well of marking where one property ends and another begins. Today, Burano is still a quiet village with about 2,000 full-time residents and its main industry is tourism, with day trippers from Venice coming to buy lace and photograph the colorful and picturesque canals.
What to See
Although it may not be as famous as the one in Pisa, it's worth noting that Burano also has a leaning tower and the former bell tower of the 17th century San Martino Church is a great spot for pictures. Via Galuppi is the island's main street lined with pastry shops, souvenir stands, bars, and restaurants. However, if you wander away from that area you'll see fewer tourists and can enjoy the peacefulness and beauty of the canals and colorful houses that have long attracted painters to the island. To learn more about the history and way of life on the lagoon, you can take a boat tour with Domenico and Enrico of Pescaturismo Nettuno. Both are fishermen who are deeply committed to preserving the natural beauty and native traditions of Burano and the lagoon. On this tour, you'll get to ride in an authentic bragosso, a fishing boat, while supporting sustainable tourism in Burano.
Many visitors come to buy lace in Burano but unfortunately, a lot of stores sell cheap imitation lace, much of it made in China. Buyers should beware of any lace that costs less than $50, because it's likely not the real thing. Real Burano lace takes a long time to make and even the smallest piece of lace could take weeks to finish. Just one tablecloth may take a team of women up to a whole year to complete and can cost up to $500 or more.
If you're coming to Burano for the lace, you'll want to start your visit with a stroll through the Museo del Merletto, the lace museum. This way, when you start looking at lace on the island, you'll know exactly what you're looking for. To see lace being made in real time, head to Martina Vidal, where lacemakers have been tatting for four generations. This atelier has three floors of lace clothing, housewares, and gifts. And if you can't find what you're looking for there, Emilia Burano is another good shop to find authentic lace.
Where to Stay and Eat
Burano has several good restaurants specializing in fresh seafood. The most famous is Trattoria al Gatto Nero, known for its cerulean blue facade, handmade pasta, and homey atmosphere. Trattoria da Primo e Paolo, right on the main square, is famous for its seafood risotto, as is Trattoria da Romano, also on the square. And for swoon-worthy lagoon views, Riva Rosa has a rooftop terrace.
For a more exclusive experience, cross the footbridge to Mazzorbo Island and Venissa Restaurant, a Michelin-starred restaurant set in a walled vineyard and garden. It's part of the Venissa Wine Resort, which offers a cozy osteria and bar, premium wines, and polished modern rooms for an overnight stay.
There are some Airbnb options on Burano, but there are only a few hotels such as the Casa Burano, which offers sleek modern rooms spread out over three traditional, colorful houses. It's easy to just visit for the day and return to Venice later, but spending the night on Burano is a magical experience. After the daytime crowds head back to their hotels in Venice, the canals go quiet and residents come out to talk and play cards, fishermen tend to their boats, and church bells call worshippers to mass. It's a quiet, authentic side of Venice that few tourists get to see.
How to Get to Burano
Burano is an island, so other than taking a costly private water taxi from Venice, the best way to get there is to take Vaporetto number 12, a line on the public water bus, from Fondament Nove, which departs every half hour. The Vaporetto also makes one stop on Murano Island, so if you reach Murano from another part of Venice, you can transfer to number 12 at the Murano Faro stop. On the scenic 40-minute ride, you'll pass the cemetery island of San Michele, Murano and other small islands in the lagoon. From Burano, it's a short boat ride on Vaporetto line 9 to Torcello, a peaceful island where you'll find a cathedral with stunning Byzantine mosaics.