To get to Burano you either have to go to Murano and await another water bus (vaporetto) or get to Fondamenta Nova – a big interchange stop – and catch the vaporetto (number 12) from there. Even then it takes forty minutes from Nova. The service is only every half an hour as well so is it worth it? And staying on Burano is pretty impractical as I think there is just one hotel. But there are some apartments for rent.
It isn’t worth going there if you are looking for bars, bustle and night life. It is if you’re looking for something different. You will find a few places selling masks as in Venice or glass as in Murano but here, lace and linen are the big things. It can be beautifully made but that is reflected in the price. Just as every second shop in the tourist areas of Venice sell masks the same with lace occurs in Burano. The other shops seem to sell vegetables and there is even a seller whose shop is a boat and who wanders up and down the canals, produce laid out and till at the ready to take your money.
Yes there are canals on Burano but there are also strips of garden and open spaces which is rare on both Venice and Murano. When you alight at the main vaporetto stop in Burano, there is a large open space and you can see houses with gardens.
And that is another reason why you should visit the island. Houses, much more modern than in Venice, are brightly coloured – not in rows but individually. Houses are not necessarily painted in pastels. They use big bold colours; deep purples, oranges and lime greens grab your eyes. There is even a house that seems almost to be a Clarice Cliff pottery design. And as you leave the island and head for Torcello or Treporti you can see the different house colours long after other buildings would meld into a landscape. It wasn’t surprising then to find quite a few people with sophisticated cameras taking pictures of them.
Because Burano isn’t as old or as palatial as Venice, the houses are more average sized but better looked after than in Venice. The canals are narrower and there are more courtyards and slab stone paths so it is easy to look at the houses. And don’t miss their doors. Wooden ones, metal ones all sorts but some of them are heavy, solid structures with polished wood worthy of a craftsman. But you get that feeling about the houses. Most are very well maintained and look as though they have been recently painted. Few lower the tone. Most show that the locals are very proud of their houses and they make a big show of them. In fact when a resident paints their house, the local authority has a palette of colours for them to use. No others are acceptable.
There is one longish main street which is wider than you might expect if you are only used to the width of most Venice streets and alleys. Here are the main shops and, at the end, the museum and a church. Pisa might have one but Burano has two. Two leaning towers. Neither is as pronounced as Pisa, the church in Delft or Nevyanskaya Tower in Russia but they lean noticeably. The first church, San Martino Vescovo, is unusual as well in having no ornate or obvious main entrance. You almost slip in via a side door. It is the bell tower of this church (which is separate) that leans due to subsidence. The other church, the more well-known San Pietro di Castello, built nearly 550 years ago leans because of the weight of the stone in the tower.
Incidentally, if you have bought toilet tokens for Venice, forget using them on Burano. At the moment they still only take coins and that varies between €0.80 and €1.50. And remember they are only open between 9am-6pm!
Come the end of the season and Burano behaves like an English seaside resort and much seems to shut until the tourists return next season. But then you have a better chance to admire the houses and wander at your pleasure if you’re there out of season.
From Burano, it is a short ride to Torcello, another island hardly visited today but a thousand years ago it was more important than Venice. Today, apart from the cathedral, few medieval buildings survive and the number of people living there is just a handful. Visitors, today, just go there for the quiet.
Further on, the final stop of the vaporetto is Treporti where you can switch to a different line for the return journey (number 13) visiting the island of San Erasmo, for example. It’s a long island that fronts the Adriatic Sea on one side and the lagoon on the other. There are odd things called cars that you will see because the island is linked to the mainland. Here there are hotels and campsites as this is a big summer holiday destination. But before you swop ferries to return to Venice walk to the car park and you’ll see some public art – a pair of shoes, one female and the other male. Known as Fred & Ginger, it is rather a strange sight on a holiday island where shorts and flip-flops are the order of the day. Sophisticated dance shoes belong back in smarter hotels and the casino on the Grand Canal.
The returning ferry takes another 40 minutes or so to return to Nova so, if you visiting Burano, leave a good half day for the trip.
For more on Burano, click here