Burano is an island in the Venetian Lagoon, northern Italy, near Torcello at the northern end of the lagoon, known for its lace work and brightly coloured homes. Burano is a quiet place and many tourists, but also many residents of the Venetian, appreciate it as a destination for trips out of town.
The fame of Burano is mainly due to the houses painted with bright colors and the needlework of the typical lace, but the gastronomic tradition should not be forgotten. Although the primary economy is tourism, Burano is still a fishing village. The small island of Burano fascinates with its bright colors that are reflected in the water of the canal and convey joy. Piazza Galuppi is the only square on the island where shopkeepers will invite you to see how lace is made. Burano is a renowned center for the craftsmanship of lace.
Burano is an archipelago, like nearby Venice, as it is made up of four small islands connected by bridges and crossed by 3 canals. One of the most characteristic places on the island is the crossing of two canals where the “Tre Ponti” rise, a characteristic wooden bridge that connects three areas or islands of Burano: San Mauro, San Martino right and Via Giudecca. In the waters of these canals reflect the most colorful houses of the island and various craft shops.
The small island is divided into 5 areas: San Martino Sinistro, San Martino Destro, San Mauro, Giucecca and Terranova. The three channels that divide them are Rio Ponticello, Rio Zuecca and Rio Terranova. In the past, Piazza Galuppi was a canal but it was buried to create today’s square.
Burano as well as the other islands of the lagoon including Venice, was, according to tradition, the refuge of the inhabitants of Altino who, in order to defend themselves from the barbarian invasions, in particular the Huns of Attila and the Lombards, fled to the island and founded the city. The name Burano derives from one of the six gates of the city of Altino, that is the Porta Boreana located to the northeast from where the bora blows.
The first documents in which it is mentioned date back to the 9th century and the first houses were probably stilt houses with walls made of reeds and mud, while only from the 11th century onwards the houses were built in bricks. Burano could also enjoy a mild and healthy climate thanks to a certain ventilation that warded off malaria.
Over the centuries, some families from Burano moved to Ancona for work reasons, where they formed a small community: that of the Buraneli. The influence of their presence is still felt today in the Ancona dialect, being the language of Burano, together with the native and the Levantine ones, one of the three components that merged to give rise to the dialect of the Marche capital.
It was an autonomous municipality until 1923, when it was aggregated to Venice with Murano and Pellestrina. Its territory also extended on the current Cavallino-Treporti and on the islands of Mazzorbo, Torcello, Santa Cristina, Cason Montiron, La Cura, San Francesco del Deserto.
Burano is known for its small, brightly painted houses, which are popular with artists. The colours of the houses follow a specific system, originating from the golden age of its development. If someone wishes to re-paint their home, one must send a request to the government, who will respond by making notice of the certain colours permitted for that lot.
The heart of the town is Piazza Baldassare Galuppi, the only square in the town, named after the well-known eighteenth-century composer, built by burying a canal.
The church of San Martino overlooks the square, today the only church officiated on the island. Its bell tower is famous, characterized by a steep slope due to the partial collapse of its bases, founded, like some parts of Venice, on stilts. Inside, the Crucifixion by Tiepolo ( 1725 ) is of fine workmanship. A short distance away is the church of Santa Maria delle Grazie, better known as the Cappuccine Church, it was reopened to the public after a long and costly restoration in 2006: it hosts art exhibitions and other events.
One of the most characteristic places on the island is the intersection of 2 canals, where the Tre Ponti stand, a characteristic bridge that connects the three districts of Burano: San Mauro, San Martino Sinistro and Via Giudecca. Here the most colorful streets of the island meet, where the fishermen’s houses and various craft shops stand.
Burano is known for the craftsmanship of lace, as well as for its typical brightly colored houses, although the reason and origin of this custom are not yet clear. One hypothesis suggests that each color would simply be the symbol of a specific family, given that even in modern times in Burano there are few but very common surnames. For this reason, in Burano, as in other places in Veneto, sayings are used, nicknames added to the surname to distinguish one family branch from another.
Another supposition, perhaps more founded, states that the bright colors would be used by boatmen to find their home in the presence of the fog, which in Burano is particularly dense. It should be remembered that for the entire period of the kingdom of Italy to change the color of a house it was necessary to ask permission from a superintendent.
On the island, in addition to working the lace, some craft shops produce objects in Murano glass, worked by lamp or blown and other workshops make papier-mâché masks. These forms of craftsmanship, although originating from the nearby islands of the Venetian lagoon, have now also expanded to Burano.
Legend has it that the traditional artisan textile production was born thanks to a fisherman. Indeed, having resisted the song of the sirens in the name of his beauty who was waiting for him in Burano, he would have received a foam crown from the queen of the waves to adorn the head of his bride. The friends of the beloved, envious and conquered by the beauty of the veil, would try to imitate it, thus starting a school of centuries-old tradition. Historically, however, lace craftsmanship dates back to the 16th century.
The Lace of Burano is one of the most popular lace in the world, the centuries-old tradition and specific island Burano in the Venice lagoon, home to a famous lace museum. The first evidence of the flourishing of the Venetian lace trade dates back to the end of the 15th century, accompanied and followed by a real publishing boom in Europe and in Italy, especially in Venice, which saw the publication of hundreds of books, called modellari, by designs for lace and embroidery, created by the greatest engravers and typographers of the time.
A strong push to spread this type of craftsmanship was given by the dogaressa Morosina Morosini, who at the end of the 16th century created a workshop in Venice, in which 130 lace makers were employed. On his death the workshop was closed, but the art of lace continued to be cultivated. Given the strong demand, they studied to organize the production and marketing of Venetian lace: the Merciai Corporation assumed the prerogative, organizing the work in homes, orphanages, convents, hospices, islands, thus becoming in the century XVII (era of the lace boom in Europe) one of the richest guilds in Venice.
Over the years the Burano lace acquired international fame. Rare and precious commodity, it became part of the trousseau of various European families of primary importance: at the coronation of Richard III of England (22 June 1483) Queen Anne wore a rich cloak decorated with Burano lace; in the same way various members of the Tudor family, Caterina de ‘Medici, Bianca Cappello and many others bought lace. Precisely by Caterina de ‘Medici and – in subsequent years – by the minister Colbert, some lace makers moved to France: in a few years, the Buranelle lace makers became over 200, teaching their art to French colleagues: on the day of his coronation (May 14, 1643) Louis XIV wore a lace collar made by the Buranelle lace makers, who it had taken two years to finish.
In 1665 the typical of Burano processing, became point de France, thus starting a very strong competition with the product of Burano. To this were added heavy import duties, which while causing commercial damage did not prevent Burano lace from flourishing: at the beginning of the eighteenth century in the Venetian workshop “Ranieri e Gabrielli” about 600 lace makers were employed. But the end of the Republic of Venice (1797) coincided with the beginning of a slow crisis: the production of lace became an exclusively family business, and the number of lace makers began to decline, to the point of running the risk of running out of this typical centuries-old production.
In the winter of 1872, thanks to the interest of Countess Andriana Marcello and the honorable Paolo Fambri, it was decided to try to revitalize the ancient tradition of Burano lace, with the main aim of alleviating the sad economic conditions of the island. An elderly lacemaker named Vincenza Memo – known as Cencia Scarpariola – who was the last custodian of all the secrets of art was then asked to pass them on to the elementary teacher Anna Bellorio d’Este, who in turn passed them on to her group of girls.
Thus it was that in the ancient palace of the podestà the Burano Lace School was born, which thanks to the orders of the Countess Marcello and a series of noblewomen she consulted – including the Princess of Saxony, the Duchess of Hamilton, the Countess Bismarck, Princess Metternich, Queen of Holland and Queen Margaret – made work and commerce flourish again. In 1875 the Lace School already had over 100 students.
Countess Marcello died in 1893, leaving her son with the task of continuing his work. The school’s production continued to grow until the First World War and remained high until the 1930s, and then slowly decreased in the following decades. The lace school was definitively closed in 1970. Production continued privately, thanks also to the birth of a series of local shops. Currently the extreme technical difficulty of the finest pieces, and their long or very long gestation (to create a large densely embroidered tablecloth it takes the work of ten lace makers for three years), have on the one hand caused prices to rise enormously, on the other. favored the search for a more hasty and faster processing technique, to the detriment of quality.
Lace Museum of Burano
In order to relaunch and redevelop the art of lace, the Lace Museum was open in 1981 on the site of the old school, where various professional training courses and important historical exhibitions were organized. The Andriana Marcello Foundation granted the museum on loan to the Municipality of Venice. The palace and the collections were subsequently affected by a long period of restoration, reorganization and revaluation, which ended with the new inauguration of the museum on 25 June 2011.
Over two hundred unique pieces from the school’s collection, made between the 16th and 20th centuries, are exhibited at the Burano Lace Museum. The museum also preserves the school archive and other documents and works of art relating to lace making in Venice.
The typical dessert of Burano is the yellow donut biscuit bussolà made of eggs, flour and butter, not to be confused with the “bossolà” of Chioggia, a donut-shaped toast. With the same dough is prepared l ‘ they (plural them ) from the “S shaped like the letter”.
Burano is famous for its fish dishes, the most famous of which is the “risotto de gò”: the broth in which the rice is cooked and creamed is extracted from the “gò” a fish typical of the Venice lagoon, known in English under the name of “goby”. The dishes of the Burano’s cuisine are served in restaurants. There are also several pizzerias and delicious icecream in a bar or a typical Burano’s cookie in a pastry store.