Venice. The name evokes images of beauty, romance, drama, art, music and history. There is a certain mystical majesty in the combination of awe-inspiring architecture, beautiful bridges and theatrical canal systems that define this sensational city. What stories could the walls of this city tell? What secrets lurk, forever lost to the watery depths of the canals? What have these ancient buildings seen and heard over the centuries?
Spectacular architecture of buildings in St Marks’ Square, Venice. Photo by Esther Colavecchio
Some visitors may not have heard about a little island in the Venetian Lagoon called Burano and might overlook it during a visit to the canal city. Hopefully I will persuade you not to miss Burano.
That morning we’d been enthralled by a glass blowing demonstration and subsequent shopping session on the magnificent island of Murano. A water taxi deposited us back on the main island of Venice where we soon found ourselves soaking up the wonderful sights and sounds of St Mark’s Square. Our café morning-tea stop boasted the BEST sandwiches, thanks to the recommendation of our trusty travel director, Marco. It was a homely little café down an alley from the main square and the sandwiches were of the simple, no-crust tuna on white bread variety but were just divine. They were tasty, soft and a seriously scrumptious Venetian version of the humble sandwich.
St Mark’s Square, Venice. Photos by Esther Colavecchio.
Wandering through the famous Piazza San Marco there was a small orchestra playing outside one of the restaurants and the legendary pigeons were pecking and fluttering across the pavers. It was one of those ‘pinch yourself’ moments. We were IN St Mark’s Square, Italy! A few sprinkles of summer rain failed to dampen the enthusiasm of summer crowds swirling around the square and shops. How could the afternoon activities improve upon such a memorable morning?
The island of Burano is a short trip on a “vaporetti” (or Venetian motorboat) from the main island of Venice. The journey out to the island flew by quickly, due to the flurry of excited tour group chatter and laughter as we compared travel tales and ‘oohed’ and ‘aahed’ over our Venetian experiences (and shopping purchases).
Our first sight of Burano gave us a glorious glimpse into why this island is so beloved. Burano is famous for its brightly coloured houses and is therefore a photo lover’s paradise. Many artists have made their mark by representing the rainbow coloured happiness of Burano’s’ houses.
Coloured boats and houses of Burano. Photo by Esther Colavecchio.
As soon as you step onto the island, you feel the change in pace. The busy tourist hub of Venice’s main island has been replaced by a laid-back coastal fishing village vibe. This is a working island, with evidence of fishing activities as well as the sight of ladies lovingly tending to the lace-work that the island is well-known for. It is a truly delightful place to visit, with a population of less than 3000 hardy souls. It is a densely built-up little island interwoven with canals filled with colourful fishing boats which match the bright houses that they sit along-side.
A Burano local going about her daily chores. Photo by Esther Colavecchio.
There are a few stories about the history behind the cheerfully coloured houses. The colours follow a specific system, originating from the time of the island’s development. If someone wants to paint their home, they must send a request to the government who respond by specifying certain colours permitted for that lot. A new meaning to ‘painting the town red’. Ancient legend has it that fishermen painted their houses so they’d see them easily from afar when away fishing. A cheekier version of this story, as told by Marco, was that the fishermen would be so drunk when they came home from fishing that they’d go into the wrong house. Their wives, therefore, painted the houses in certain colours so the men would know which house was their own.
Buoyed by Marco’s stories we were ready for a special seafood lunch. The restaurant was named ‘Al Raspo de Ua’. The decorations were a sight to behold. There were fishing nets, miniature boats, miniature ships, sea shells, photos and memorabilia filling the walls and draped from the ceiling. The tables were decorated with bright yellow tablecloths and accented with blue, beautifully continuing the sea farers theme and soul boosting colour theme to the island.
Ceiling decorations, ‘Al Raspo de Ua’. Photo by Esther Colavecchio.
Our group was there for quite a late lunch and were a very festive bunch as we waited for lunch. The staff promptly saw to it that we were provided with wine, beer, mineral water and soft drinks and then the procession of food began.
Bread rolls dotted the table. First came a delicious seafood dip served with mini-toasts. Next, we all devoured the lasagna which was done in true tasty and traditional style. The seafood risotto was just the right blend of creaminess and taste. Of course, there was a fresh, crisp Italian salad accompanying the meal. Fried calamari rings and prawns, along with superbly fresh fish fillets followed. The kids enjoyed spaghetti and pizza.
As if we had room, the friendly and conscientious staff brought us sweets of an almond brittle confection and home-made shortbread biscuits. Fresh fruit of apple, apricots and peaches arrived as well. We finished this fine meal with our choice of coffee or tea and we were also gifted with a mini bottle of amaretto.
After such a filling and fun lunch there was a while longer to stroll around the shops and enjoy this lovely little island before journeying back to our hotel via water taxi. We had packed a whole lot of shopping and eating into the one fabulous day and it was a fitting end to our stay in Venice.
Written by Esther Colavecchio
July 10th, 2014. This excursion was a part of our Trafalgar, ‘Best of Italy’ tour. For more information on this and many other Trafalgar tours, visit http://www.trafalgar.com