Burano is a little less famous than its twin Murano – the island of glass – with which it is often confused due to the similar names. Here it’s lace, in no way inferior to its sibling’s blown glass, that has made tiny Burano famous. With a population of only three thousand inhabitants, its colourful houses make it is one of the most picturesque places on earth.
The idea of arriving on Burano and realizing that you’ve forgotten your camera could be a catastrophe. The island’s rows of houses, whose facades boast all the colours of the rainbow, are truly spectacular! However, the origin of this tradition of painting the houses in bright colours was not only for aesthetic reasons. Legend has it that its fishermen, often confused by frequent banks of fog (and, truth be told, by the amount of liqueur consumed to keep them warm…), devised a chromatic code that would help them identify their own landing piers more easily after a long day’s fishing. Each colour corresponded to a family, to their house and to their address.
Burano’s brightly-coloured houses are not the only thing worth admiring! The island is the capital of handmade lace, a craft kept alive for centuries by the wives of fishermen waiting for their husbands to return from sea. The work is extremely exacting, with each woman specializing in a single stitch. Since there are seven stitches in total, each piece is passed from woman to woman to be finished. Groups of women work diligently for days to produce items of matchless beauty: trims for dresses, accessories, tablecloths, gloves, umbrellas and masks, all made from this delicate, white lace, crafted with a painstaking attention to detail that has lasted for centuries.
For example, though it can take up to five months to make a rectangular tablecloth for 12 people, the island’s lace makers are now equipped to deliver your item of choice to anywhere in the world. (Please note: since an authentic, handcrafted item takes hours of work, you need to be cautious if the price seems too low. The risk that the lace is not handmade and not even Venetian is now a sad reality). While on the island, make sure to visit the Museum of Lace-Making to understand why something so exquisite should not become extinct.
An absolute must-visit for your shopping is La Perla Gallery, where you can also admire the inimitable beauty of the age-old craft of lace making. And don’t forget to visit the Church of San Martino, renowned for its bell tower which is as crooked as the leaning Tower of Pisa.