A day trip to Burano was one of the very first activities I planned for my trip to Venice. I do a lot of my travel brainstorming by browsing photos on flickr. I'll read about a place in a guidebook or on tripadvisor then head over to flickr to look at shots by real people, searching tags and groups until I have a feeling about the location. All it took to convince me to visit Burano was one flickr search and the resulting barrage of colorful shots had me practically booking my ticket on the spot.
Famous for artisan lace making and the brightly colored buildings that line its roads and canals, the exceedingly charming island of Burano is just four miles and an hours boat ride from Venice. Perfect for a day trip. First you take the Vaporetto across the Venetian Lagoon to Murano (that's where they make all the colorful glass pieces) then switch boats for the rest of the journey to Burano. I took a mid morning boat on a Thursday and it was packed, standing room only. I pushed my way towards the edge of the boat so I could catch the breeze and the view. On the way back I parked myself near a wall so I had something to lean on and read my kindle for the journey.
Similar to Venice, the main thoroughfares of Burano can feel congested and touristy. Especially when everyone disembarks from the Vaporetto and heads into town en masse. But venture out to the perimeter of the island and the atmosphere changes completely. The streets are quiet - there are no cars - birds sing, the sound of muffled talking and television wafts from open windows. It feels like you have the whole island to yourself. Best of all, there are signs of real people living real lives. Everyone hangs laundry out of their windows, adding an extra dimension of colors and textures to the surroundings. Colorful curtains complement a rainbow of paint and window boxes are always full of flowers.
After two hours of exploring I was more than ready for lunch. It was a little late, around 2 pm, which meant my restaurant of choice had plenty of open seats. I once again took Anthony Bourdain's recommendation and chose Da Romano. Since I was dining alone I couldn't order their famous risotto. Instead I had garlicky mussels and clams followed by a plate of seafood filled pasta. The food was great, but the two dishes had very similar flavor profiles. In both cases the seafood was nicely cooked to tender with just enough of tomato and garlic, I only wish I had ordered something with a little more variety. Oh well! I would still very much recommend the restaurant, though not cheap, it was a satisfying and relaxing stop on my tour of the island.
I spent a good few hours after eating just wandering through the narrow lanes and across the short footbridges, taking way too many photographs. On Venice the density of buildings plus the crowds and canals sometimes feels stiflingly humid and exhausting. But on Burano, plenty of fresh sea air flows across the island and the sunshine is warm and welcome.
But the best part of the visit was exploring the outer edges of Burano and finally getting glimpse of actual Venetians living their lives. At the beginning of my week in Venice I spent a lot of time visiting all of the tourist hot spots, which were great, but at times the island felt artificial, like a romantic Disneyworld for adults. Most Venetians can no longer afford to live on the island of Venice, they've moved to the mainland, The Lido, or to the residential island of Giudecca. Their homes turned into shops, restaurants, and museums. All that's left is the tourists and the business of catering to them. But there are still parts of Venice that are holding on. And after the day in Burano, I made an effort to explore those neighborhoods and get a better feel for the everyday life of Venetians.