A visit to Burano island is one of the best day trips from Venice. It is one of the most memorable Venice islands because of its brightly coloured houses. Many say that the star Venice attraction is the city itself rather than any of the main sights, and the same could be said about Burano. There are plenty of things to do in Burano and the surrounding islands, but seeing the vivid colourful Burano houses is the best.
The boat to Burano only takes half an hour from the city, and it’s a world away from Venice. Burano is an island in the north of the Venetian lagoon, a familiar Venice landmark identifiable from miles away by its leaning tower. It started out as a fishing village, with some women making intricate Burano lace to supplement their husbands’ incomes. It’s one of the most beautiful villages in Europe, the houses are wonderful, but what to do in Burano besides?
- 1 Getting from Venice to Burano
- 2 Burano and Murano – what’s the difference?
- 3 A Burano Day Trip
- 4 The Best Things To Do In Burano – Wandering and Photographing the Colourful Houses
- 5 Casa Bepi
- 6 The Burano Leaning Tower
- 7 Baldassare Galuppi Statue
- 8 The Love Viewing Bridge
- 9 Burano Lace
- 10 Burano Restaurants
- 11 Torcello
- 12 San Francesco del Deserto
- 13 Where To Stay in Venice
Getting from Venice to Burano
Burano and Murano – what’s the difference?
Burano should not be confused with Murano. Despite their similar sounding names, they are very different places. Murano is much closer to the city of Venice than Burano, and is a much bigger island. It’s where Venice’s glass industry is concentrated. The city’s glass workshops were moved there en masse in 1291 because they posed such a fire risk to Venice. Murano glass is now known the world over, and Murano glass factory tours are a popular draw for visitors.
A Burano Day Trip
Most people tend to visit Burano on a day trip from Venice. If you’re only spending two days in Venice, I’d suggest sticking to the city itself. If it’s your first visit, you’ll be missing a lot of Venice in order to getting to Burano.
However, if you’re planning to spend 3 days in Venice, you’ll have plenty of time to make the trip to Burano. Many make a full day of it, squeezing in some other islands around Venice as well.
One of the most popular Venice day trips is the Murano Burano Torcello run. This also includes the cathedral island of Torcello, which is close to Burano. If you’re travelling independently I’d suggest leaving Murano for another half day if you have the time available.
If you join a Murano and Burano tour you’ll be whisked around fairly quickly but get a good grasp of both places.
If, on the other hand, you opt to travel by yourselves, it is feasible to see both Burano and Torcello on a day trip.
The Best Things To Do In Burano – Wandering and Photographing the Colourful Houses
As you arrive on the island, the first thing that hits you is the sheer brightness of the myriad colours of Burano. It is absolutely ablaze with colour, every single one in the rainbow and most of the shades between. The Burano houses are an incredible sight, and a dream for a photographer like me. The colours are an ongoing, endless, joyous serotonin hit right between the eyes. I love it, and every time I return to Venice I make sure I have time to visit Burano again.
Burano is very small, barely 500 metres across at its longest point. It doesn’t take long to walk around the island, but don’t rush. Explore the many alleyways and courtyards. Wherever you look, you see rich, bright colour. Make sure your camera battery is fully charged, because you’ll need it.
Sometimes it’s something simple like a white window surrounded by a vividly painted wall. It could be washing hanging from a line outside some brightly coloured houses. Or it could be the wonky bell tower of the local church between some houses. Perhaps it could be intense bright colours reflected in the still waters of a canal. Take your time. The compositions will soon flow. If you prefer painting to photography, you’ll have just as much inspiration.
It’s an amazing place to photograph at any time of year. During winter you might not get the flower baskets but you do get low light all day, as in the shot above.
If Venice is one of the most beautiful cities in the world, then its neighbour Burano must also be one of the most picturesque places on the planet.
One of the best-known houses in Burano is Casa Bepi, after its former resident, Giuseppe Toselli. He worked as a cinema operator when Burano had a cinema, and after it closed down he sold candy from a stall on the island. He became known as Bepi Suà – Bepi Candy – as a result.
Bepi kept the cinema tradition alive by screening films onto a white sheet in front of his house. When he wasn’t showing films he was busy painting it, constantly trying new patterns, shapes and ideas. The front of Casa Bepi has been left as it was when he died in 2002.
The house is on Calle del Pistor. Turn off the main street, Via Baldassare Galuppi, at Girani Caffe Venezia, and it’s on the left.
The Burano Leaning Tower
Apart from the houses, the most prominent landmark in Burano is the leaning tower of the church of San Martino. It’s an amusing sight, leaning several degrees out of the perpendicular. You can see its lean from miles away in the lagoon, from the moment you glimpse it.
The church dates from the 16th century, and the highlight inside is Giambattista Tiepolo’s painting of the Crucifixion. You can also visit the Oratorio di San Barbara chapel next door to the church.
Baldassare Galuppi Statue
Burano’s most famous resident was the 18th century composer Baldassare Galuppi, and his statue is in the Piazza bearing his name. Nicknamed Il Buranello, He was best known as a composer of comic operas, but also composed religious music. He held prestigious positions as Maestro of the Doge’s Chapel in St Mark’s Basilica in Venice, and the court composer for Catherine the Great in St Petersburg, Russia.
The Love Viewing Bridge
One of the best views in Burano is from the Love Viewing Bridge at the confluence of two canals. There are actually two bridges, one over each canal. The view down the canal, with the campanile of San Martino and the houses of Fondamenta della Peschiera, is incredible.
Tourism aside, the two industries that have sustained Burano through the centuries are fishing and lace making.
The lacemaking tradition originated in Cyprus, one of Venice’s dominions in the eastern Mediterranean. It began in Burano in the late 15th or early 16th century, continuing until the 18th century. It then enjoyed a revival in the late 19th century.
The lace was traditionally made with needles, but the process is notoriously laborious and slow. The time involved in this made the end product very expensive. Very few people now make the lace the traditional way. Sadly, the fishing industry on Burano has also declined in recent times, with only around twenty fishermen left.
You can buy lace from Burano in several shops around the island. The Burano Lace Museum – the Museo del Merletto – occupies a medieval palazzo on Piazza Galuppi, and is well worth a visit. They have samples of lace made back in the 17th century – it’s a fascinating glimpse into the island’s past.
Burano is almost a different world compared to Venice. One of the differences is the prices of the restaurants in Burano which are significantly lower than those in Venice. As Burano is still a fishing village, the journey from port to plate is a very short one indeed. So there’s a strong emphasis on seafood, which is as fresh as it gets.
The one place I can recommend is Trattoria Da Primo, which is on Via Galuppi. I enjoyed sarde in saor, a Venetian classic there, followed by a tremendous grigliata mista (seafood mixed grill).
I know several people who have dined at Trattoria da Romano, which is further down Via Galuppi, closer to the leaning tower. One of their specialities is risotto di gò, a traditional Burano dish made with the lagoon bed-dwelling black goby fish. Everyone I know who has been there loved the restaurant, and we’ll be checking it out at some point.
Torcello Island is where the story of Venice began. This remote backwater was one of the first lagoon islands to be settled, first in 452 AD. In 638 the island became the seat of a bishop, which it remained for over a millennium.
Much of what was built on Torcello, a thriving small town with a few thousand inhabitants, was eventually dismantled and put to use in Venice.
All that remains is the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta, the church of Santa Fosca, a palazzo and a restaurant, all close to a single canal. It’s one of the oldest and most amazing churches in Venice. The apse mosaic in the Cathedral is breathtaking, and Santa Fosca next door is also well worth a visit. Also look out for the stone chair in the courtyard, which is popularly known as Attila’s Throne. Nobody believes that it actually was.
You can also climb the Cathedral tower for an intriguing view over the rest of the island and the lagoon. It’s only from there that you can see that most of the island has reverted to its natural state. It’s a low-lying, marshy bog, and this is how all of Venice once looked.
San Francesco del Deserto
San Francesco del Deserto is another of the lagoon islands to visit in Venice. It’s one of the islands in close proximity to Burano. A Franciscan monastery was founded there in the 13th century, soon after St Francis visited the island. It was deserted (hence the name) for some years during the 15th century. The monastery was re-established in the 19th century.
This is Venice off the beaten path, with no vaporetti stopping there. In order to get there, you’ll either need to charter or join a private boat from Burano, or join a guided tour of Burano and the island. Expect peace, tranquility and a way of life unchanged in centuries. It’s as far removed from the mass tourism in Venice as you could possibly get.
Where To Stay in Venice
We’ve written extensively about choosing the best area to stay in Venice elsewhere on our site. If you’re planning a day trip to Burano, it shouldn’t really matter where you stay in Venice. The likelihood is that you’ll have a bit of a journey to Fondamente Nove to catch the Burano vaporetto. You’ll either need to walk it or catch a connecting vaporetto there. This should be easy enough, with connections from San Marco and the Ferrovia (railway station).
Alternatively, you may even wish to stay in Burano. There are few Burano hotels to choose from, but it is possible to stay there.
Casa Burano is a hotel diffuso, with rooms spread around the island. The reception is in the Venissa Wine Resort, over on the neighbouring island of Mazzorbo. You can have a small breakfast at your accommodation, or a full gourmet breakfast back at Venissa.
I’ve never stayed on Burano, but the idea is very appealing. Once the vaporetti have left for the day, it would mainly be locals left. You can watch the sunset from the old fish market, the Pescaria Vecia, and walk the streets at dusk. They’ll be full of colour in the street lights, but most likely very quiet.
David Angel is a British writer and photographer who has been travelling and photographing the world for over 25 years. His work is regularly featured in worldwide media including the BBC, the Guardian, the Times and the Sunday Times.