Question: Where in the world is this rainbow island made up of colorful homes which once matched their fishing boats?
Answer: Burano, Italy
With its winding canals and colorful buildings and boats painted in every shade of the rainbow, the Italian island of Burano in the Venetian Lagoon is more like a kaleidoscopic dream world. The cheery color scheme has been here for decades, making the community truly unique from its far more popular neighbor, Venice.
This fisherman’s island is actually made up of a group of four small islands linked together by a series of little bridges that span the canals. It’s located about a 40-minute water bus ride away from Venice, and just like with that city, you’ll find no cars here. Walking, biking, boating, and gondola rides are the only means of getting around. There are only two or three main streets with hidden side alleys lined with shops and seafood restaurants.
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According to the local stories, the colorful hues were originally painted to help fishermen find their way home on days when the island was cloaked in fog. It’s also said that their fishing boats had colored sails to match their homes—that way their wives would know when their husband’s boat was returning. Apparently, the multi-colored facades also distinguish the property lines of one home to another as most buildings are connected.
In addition to its photographic appeal, Burano is also known worldwide for its beautiful needle lace. Since the 16th century, the signature stitches and intricate designs crafted by the women here were exported across Europe to royal courts and banquet halls. Many of Burano’s lace-makers today learned their craft from the island’s prestigious lace school, Scuola di Merletti, or were taught the tradition from their mothers and grandmothers. Today, some lace on the island is machine-made, but handmade items are still created and sold at small shops—you may spot some women seated on the sidewalk quietly working away at pieces.
Another focal point of the island is the leaning bell tower of San Martino Church in the main square. What’s eye-catching about this is that the tower is slowly sinking into the wet ground and leaning towards the side. The tipping bell tower rises above all the other homes and can be seen from each corner of the island.
Because of its isolation and seasonal flooding, many young people born in Burano are moving to the mainland of Italy. Though the population is dwindling, it retains its authentic and old-world charm. Boats come in at the end of the day with fresh fish while women hang their laundry out to dry and watch passersby from above colorful window boxes. It's peaceful and quaint, but a riot of bright colors.
8 Facts about Burano’s Neighboring Island, Murano:
- The tranquil island of Murano is one of the closest islands to the city of Venice. It has a Grand Canal that rivals the one of Venice but is far less crowded.
- Much like Burano, the island is made up several individual islands all connected by pedestrian bridges. Similarly, there are no cars on the island but transportation is through water taxis and gondolas.
- Murano is known for its glassmaking which dates back to the year 1291. At that time the glassmakers in Venice were forced to relocate to Murano to remove the threat of fires in Venice. From here, the long history was born as one of the most prominent centers for glassmaking.
- From the earliest days to now, glassblowing in Murano is an elite pursuit dominated by skilled craftsmen and women.
- Some of the finer glass products made in Murano include mirrors, light fixtures, chandeliers, and the world-famous Murano glass beads. You’ll also find countless handmade knickknacks like paperweights and necklaces.
- The island is home to the Museo Vetraio, or the Museum of Glass, which hosts a century-by-century look at Venetian glassmaking to show how it has evolved.
- On the island, you can spot artisans in local factories making this special glass, traditionally embedded with shimmering metallic flecks.
- Seafood is another specialty of Murano and the other Venetian islands. It’s freshly caught in the lagoon and the Adriatic Sea. Some favorite fresh seafood dishes include squid ink pasta and seafood risotto.