Burano was one of the first places in the lagoon to be settled. Even after the decline of nearby Torcello, it continued to prosper as a fishing community. In contrast to the rarefied Torcello, Burano is densely populated, its waterways lined with brightly-painted houses.
The island has dramatically changed its aspect in the last few decades, turning from a quiet and austere fishing village to a crowded commercial centre.
A tour of the island’s sights will take an hour or so. The street from the ferry stop takes you to the main thoroughfare, Via Baldassare Galuppi, named after the Buranese composer. The street is lined with linen and lace stalls, and open air trattorie serving fresh fish.
I Bussolai e gli Essi
Spending a grerat deal of time in boats presented particular problems, to the Venetians, especially with regard to mealtimes. How much food should you carry? How do you protect it from the rats? The people of Burano overcame these problems by manufacturing a special biscuit that would sustain them on their travels. Made from a paste requiring 36 eggs to each kilo of flour and with the addition of sugar, the biscuits were made in ring shape, allowing them to be threaded on ropes between the deck cabins, thereby protecting them from even the most acrobatic rats!
Traditionally these biscuits, heavy and somewhat lacking in flavour, were moistened by dipping them in thick red wine.
They are now sold both in ring and S shapes and although quite expensive, just one should be sufficient to sustain a class of weight watchers for several days!
Scuola dei Merletti
Burano people are fishermen and lace-makers by trade. You can still see fishermen preparing their boats and nets, but lace-making is rare.
In the 16th century, the local lace was the most sought after in Europe. It was so delicate it became known as “punto in aria” (“points in the air”). Foreign competition, coupled with the Republic’s decline, led to a slump in Burano’s industry in the 18th century. However, the need for a new source of income led to the revival of the skill in 1872, and the founding of a lace-making school, the Scuola dei Merletti.
Today, authentic Burano lace is hard to find. Genuine pieces take weeks or even years of painstaking labour, and are expensive. At the lace-making school, visitors can sometimes watch Burano women busily stitching intricate patterns of lace. Next to the school is the Lace Museum, which displays fine antique lace.
Linked to Burano by a footbridge, Mazzorbo is an island of orchards and gardens, gradually becoming more residential.. Ferries en route to Burano and Torcello pass through its canal. The only surviving church is the Romanesque Gothic Santa Caterina.