If Venice is like a masquerade ball, mysterious and opulent, then Burano is like a backyard picnic, festive and full of simple pleasures.
We spent one of our days in Venice exploring the outlying lagoon islands. After a long morning looking at hand blown glass in Murano, we again board the vaporetto water bus for the 30 minute journey to Burano, an island known for its lace making and fishing. Even from far away, I couldn't help noticing the wildly vivid colors of the houses standing out against a brilliant blue sky. Fishermen's wives supposedly painted their homes like this so their husbands could see them while out at sea. I certainly could. What comfort these bright buildings must have provided on a foggy day, acting as a visual tether for the fishermen as they went out on their boats for their daily catch. The leaning tower of San Martino Church rises up above the rooftops and acts as a landmark you can see from all around the village.
|A bicycle waits for its owner near the vaporetto dock.|
As soon as we stepped off the boat, I immediately noticed how different Burano is than Venice. While extraordinarily lovely, Venice seems like a city meant to be displayed, not used. It's like the fine wedding china plates and cut crystal goblets I only get out for special occasions. I never felt that any regular people lived in Venice, at least not in the areas near St. Mark's Square and Rialto Bridge. It was almost like Disneyland, existing for the pleasure of visitors. Burano, on the other hand, was alive with everyday life. It's more like colorful, glazed earthenware plates and cups that you use for your daily meals. It's down-to-earth and real.
|A woman hang out her wash. Laundry lines were everywhere in Burano.|
Walking down the street, we passed houses painted emerald green, sunny yellow, violet-pink magenta, lapis lazuli blue, and geranium red. Even the bright white and pastel houses stand out amongst the rainbow of color. Drapes covering doorways billowed out with the breeze. Women hung out their wash to dry, men strolled home with groceries, and children played basketball in the church courtyard.
|Painted plaque by a doorway|
We were admittedly quite hungry for lunch when we left Murano, so the kids were eager to sit down at the first restaurant we saw by the dock. Instead, hubby insisted we push on until we reached the restaurant recommended by our Family Guide: Italy guidebook. With a rumbling stomach, even I was beginning to feel like perhaps it wasn't worth the few minutes walk. How much better could it be? At least we had this to look at while making our way there.
|Beautiful, colorful Burano|
It turns out that our meal at the century-old Trattoria Da Romano was worth every bit of not only the walk there but also the 40 minute boat ride from Venice and Murano. The walls are covered with paintings by artists who have visited the island and photographs of the illustrious people who have dined there — Charlie Chaplin, Keith Richards, and Robert De Niro to name a few. Just last night as I was researching this post, I discovered that Anthony Bourdain praised Da Romano, too. There's a certain elegance to the place with its nice tablecloths and impeccably trained waitstaff wearing crisp, white jackets, but they still made the kids feel welcome.
|Enjoying the Fritto Misto dish of fried seafood|
With fishing as one of the main industries on the island, it was no surprise that seafood features heavily on the menu. According to Bourdain, the Goh Fish Risotto is the thing to order here. Not knowing that, I went for Sole Meunière. The waiter set down this dish of fish with a browned butter and lemon sauce before me, then offered to remove the bones. A few flicks of his wrist and I'm ready to tuck into a meal which delights despite its simple preparation. The fish was fresh, and the sauce enhanced its flavor without overpowering it. My son, ever the fan of seafood and anything fried, orders the Fritto Misto, an assorment of fried calamari, shrimp and fish with julienned vegetables. This was another winner — not greasy and with just the right amount of batter on each piece.
We ended our meal with a dessert plate of traditional cookies. Bussolà Buranello are the signature O- and S-shaped cookies of the island. They're crunchy and rich with butter and egg yolks, mildly sweet with a touch of lemon. The candied almond bars were quite a treat, too.
|Traditional cookies including bussolà buranello|
With our hunger sated, everyone was less grumpy and in a much better mood. We walked around a bit more, stopping in at La Paticceria Carmelina Palmisano after being lured in by all the packages of cookies prominently displayed in the window. Okay, well I was lured in, and then the rest of the family came back to find me after realizing I was no longer with them. Having just enjoyed a plateful of these cookies, I ended up buying what turned out to be a most excellent wedge of Torta di Torrone, soft vanilla nougat with sliced almonds throughout and chunks of chewy toffee on top.
|Torta di Torrone|
After taking time to use an iPhone app to measure the slant of Burano's not-so-famous Leaning Tower (5 degrees off plumb according to my engineer hubby), everyone was finally ready to head back to Venice. As we walked down the narrow lane leading to the vaporetto stop, my girl and I quickly ducked into a lace shop to inspect its wares. After all, Burano is famous for its intricate, hand made lace. A woman in the back sat making her delicate creation out of white thread but seemed to prefer if no one paid any attention to her. I asked if I could take a photo, and she replied grudgingly, "Just one." I purchased a lacy bookmark for myself and a small lace umbrella perfect for my daughter's American Girl doll, and with that, our time on Burano was done.
|Woman making lace.|
I really wanted a close up of her work but didn't want to intrude.
Can you wait for a good meal or is food just fuel for the body?
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