In December 2014 I traveled to Venice, Italy. It was a marvelous trip and a wee bit tiring. I had a free day to explore and hopped on a vaporetto, a water ferry, for an eleven-kilometer ride to Burano, Murano and Torcello. But Burano is the island I spent the most time visiting. I’ll talk about Murano and Torcello in other blogs.
Burano is a restful, peaceful, colorful side trip from the bustling action of Venice. Every second in Venice was exciting, interesting and beautiful and I didn’t want to miss anything so I was out and about constantly. With so much enjoyable activity, I found my trip to Burano a much-needed respite.
I was anxious to see how this island compared to Venice. I stepped off the vaparetto into a feast of rainbow colors of brilliant lavenders, lilacs, cherry reds and lemon hues. The paint colors of their houses were refreshing and relaxing. Burano is one of the archipelagos making up Venice so there are no cars. And, without traffic, I strolled the cobblestone streets to the background sounds of children’s voices as they played and romped
I was so lost in peacefulness, I walked right into laundry billowing from the clothesline outside someone’s backdoor. There are no fences or gates separating their homes so my sense of freedom let me wander aimlessly. Meandering made me peckish and much to my delight markets pedaling gelato or pizza beckoned me. Sitting inside enjoying my snacks I took the opportunity to chat up some residents.
I found, Burano is most known for its intricately designed hand-made lace. It’s made using techniques passed down for generations. Beautifully hand-stitched lace table covers, napkins, doilies, shawls, dresses and of course, masks abound in the shoppes. Looking up and down the streets, it was impossible for me not to notice how beautifully colored and dignified the structures appeared.
I found out the tradition of painting their homes brightly colored hues goes back as far as the sixteenth century and several legends surround the tradition. One legend claims residents painted their homes bright colors to define their property boundaries. Another legend is fishermen painted their homes bright colors to identify their own homes from long distances through the fog while at sea. My personal favorite of the legends is the one involving the fishermen and the fog because of a sculpture I saw.
When I got off the vaporetto, I walked through a park that edged the waterway. In the center of the park a poignant sculpture got my attention. The sculpture, entitled Souaci Gesi, shows an anguished woman facing the sea. Every muscle in her body,taut from emotion, her face intensely anguished. She looked like she’d lost someone dear at sea. For me, that lends more validity to the fishermen legend. It would be one way to save others from experiencing the anguish of Souaci Gesi. But, as ever, legends remain open to interpretation.
Legend or no legend, painting their homes today requires completing a process and obtaining approval from a governing body to maintain a consistent scheme. The tradition will continue forward.
If you’re in Venice and need a day for relaxation, hop a vaparetto for a side trip to Burano. The feast for your eyes and relaxation for your mind will make the trip worth your time.