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Published on: 03/13/06 12:19 PM

Travel: Burano, Italy



Drenched in colour

SHEILA KUMAR drinks in the sights on the gorgeous Italian island of Burano

The profusion of colour in Burano seems to follow no set colour codes; it just celebrates something intangible Sometimes, Venice tends to overwhelm with its sheer uniqueness, its grandiose, decaying beauty. You visit Venice and feel it’s a sort of high point in your travels. Now, you can really wear the T-shirt that announces: Done it all.

When it happens like that, you miss seeing Burano, the stunning little island just off the Venetian lagoon, a 40-minute vaporetto ride from Venice. Now, Burano is a not-to-be-missed place, I assure you.

The birthplace of musician composer Baldassarre Galluppi, whose monument stands at the centre of the small town piazza, home to much of the lace making industry in these parts, and yes, chock-a-block with tourists during season, Burano’s surface is dotted with the most colourful buildings you ever saw.

It’s a rich gamut, almost a surfeit, of colour: the primary hues with all the supporting and secondary tones imaginable. Olive green next to blush of rose, next to deep scarlet and lime, next to teal, next to what we’d callmithai pink… with lavender, deep purple, emerald and gold all thrown in for good measure. It’s enough to make the skylarks sing out in any Indian’s breast!


Photo: Sheila Kumar.


Joy-filled ambience

The Mediterranean doesn’t exactly lack colour but that’s more of washes of soft pinks, shy yellows, toning mustards, cathedral greys, all of it offset by dazzling white. The profusion of colour in Burano, in comparison, seems to follow no set colour codes; it just celebrates something intangible in a burst of joy and radiance.

A huge draw is the facade of a house in the interior called Bepi Sua, with geometrical patterns painted in bright oil colours, the apogee of Burano colour, indeed! Since almost everything in Italy hangs on an interesting tale, let me tell you, the colourful facades are credited to the vivid imagination of local fishermen.

After many a night out, much hard fishing and maybe some carousing, many a fisherman could not locate his house, no doubt leading to many a comedy or drama, as the case may be, of errors.

Eventually, some bright spark (if you’ll excuse the irresistible pun) hit upon the idea of the houses painted in different but loud colours, so that they could be spotted as the boats drew
into the bay. Ergo, fisherman happy, wife happy, and of course, the colourful houses of Burano is tourist history now.

Burano’s other claim to fame (some would have it, the main claim to fame) being lace-making, let me not neglect to tell you the lace-maker’s tale, either.

Many moons before, a young crusader from Burano had left his beloved a beautiful seaweed as a token of his love. As time went by, the seaweed began to wilt and the faithful girl sought to preserve it by reproducing it through needlework on one of her father’s fishing nets.


Voila! Burano’s famous lace industry thus got its humble kick-off. However, if you expect to see an Isabel Huppert look-alike poring over intricate needlepoint, you’ll be in for a disappointment. It’s Italian women of a certain age poring over their patterns that you will see.

There are about 7,000 people living on the island now and almost any time, seem swamped by the number of floating tourists, which, of course, makes for one rather crowded isle. Burano looks as if copied from some picture postcard… of Burano.

The light here has a special infusion and many artists have dubbed it `the isle of light’. Houses have riots of blooms in planters and terracotta pots on window sills, falling from trellis vines on terraces. The church of St. Martin, dating back to the 16th Century, holds an important work of art inside, Tiepolo’s Crocifissione.

A delightfully lopsided little tower rises up at one end of the island, a little canal winds its placid way in the centre of the piazza. The outdoor cafes serve up long lazy lunches and dinners of sea food (the shrimp risotto is truly delectable) and fresh farm produce, glasses frequently topped with sparkling wines, with a finale of locally baked biscuits dunked in, yes, you guessed it, wine.

Nobody is in a hurry in Burano, and all too soon, the tourists start slowing down, too, stopping to admire some glazed ceramic ware here, the mounds of ornately worked lace there. Also on display are works of vivid (but naturally) art by locals and wannabe Renaissance artists-tourists alike.

There’s a consistent whirring in the air and I look up  and around for a glimpse of small humming
birds or maybe Woody Woodpecker. But no, it’s the clicking of a thousand cameras!

Well, every Paradise has to have its downside, I guess.


This ran in THE HINDU of 20 march 2006.

Related Links:

Travel: Verona, Italy

Travel: Assisi, Italy

Travel: Rome, Italy

Travel: Stresa, Italy

Travel: Venice, Italy





Bepi SuaBuranochurch of St. Martincolourful housesItalylace makers of BuranoTiepolo's Crocifissione.Venice

Sheila Kumar • March 13, 2006

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