Why is Burano so colorful?


Burano is a curious little island. Located in the Venice lagoon, it’s a massive attraction for tourists who come to Venice. Though similar to Venice with its canals and stunning architecture, it has one unique, striking quirk: its colors! Burano’s canals are lined with rows of beautiful houses of different colors.

Why did the residents of Burano start painting their houses this way back in the day? The answer has special importance rooted deep in the island’s history. Read more to find out an answer to the question of why is Burano so colorful.

What is Burano Known for?

Nowadays, Burano has very few full-time residents. Less than 3,000 people call this lovely town their home. Much like Venice, it is well-preserved for tourism, and most people who live there support the tourist economy in some way.

So why do people come to Burano? Firstly, the colors are a sight to behold. Every color of the rainbow is represented on the town streets. Moreover, the condition of these houses is not deteriorating. They are just as bright and vivid today as they were centuries ago.

Why is Burano so colorful
Why is Burano so colorful?

People also stop by to escape the madness of Venice. Since Burano is smaller and less famous, the island gets snubbed by many vacationers. However, this makes it noticeably more peaceful than Venice! There are fewer crowds to congest the cafes and streets, making Burano a more relaxing getaway.

It’s also home to a longtime tradition that visitors can still see in action today. Burano Lace is a unique style of lace product originating from the island. Though most gift shops sell mass-produced knockoffs, a few artists still make and sell lace in their workshops in town.

A Quick History of Burano

Romans were the first known inhabitants of the island, dating back to the 6th century. It changed hands several times over the next millennium, constantly invaded and destroyed by different groups.

It was next mentioned in historical records in the 16th century for its famous lace. The women of Burano made lace in a unique, intricate pattern that later influenced the Venetian style and was sold across Europe.

Burano lace making
Burano lace making (Image source: Pinterest)

Besides that, Burano was a fishing village for several centuries. Fishing remained a critical industry for several centuries. However, eventually, the city fell on hard economic times due to some harsh winters disrupting the fishing industry. Luckily, the popularity of lace production helped bail out the community with the help of the nobility, who bought them.

Today, a small group still partakes in these occupations. Sharing the waterways with Vaporetto ferries and motorboats, Burano locals still brave the morning fog and set out on their fishing boats to keep up a centuries-old tradition. Artists do their part on land, crafting intricate lace patterns by needle and never the easy way by machine.

The Reason for Burano’s Colors

How does Burano’s past play a part in the colorful houses, then? There are a few ideas, but these are the most popular theories:

Finding a home in the fog

The most widely-accepted answer relates to the island’s history as a fishing community. Venice Lagoon’s thick fog made navigating a challenge for local fishermen. To find their way back to town, they started painting the houses in bright colors so that they stood out in the mist. Had the houses maintained the beige and white styles from neighboring Venice, there would have been plenty of shipwrecks or lost ships.

Symbol of family

Others believe that they used colors to distinguish families from each other. This doesn’t mean it differentiated class levels. Almost everyone worked in fishing and lace-making and were more or less equals. Rather, the island was home to only a few big families. Therefore, these colors differentiated them, much like your surname would set you apart from someone with the same first name as you.

Colorful Burano houses
Colorful Burano houses

Coloring out of necessity

Finally, the last theory link colored houses with the necessity of maintaining houses. In the past, when the men were fishing, the women had to deal with decorating and maintaining Burano’s homes. Because of the lagoon’s humidity and high water exposure, the facades of these homes often tended to degrade. Therefore, women were often forced to repaint facades with available dyes that were left. In this way, the houses began to have different colors.

Rules of painting

But, if you wonder why is Burano so colorful up to this date, here is a reason. Painting houses in Burano were more than just an artistic quirk. They became a bureaucratic matter over the years. If someone wanted to paint their home, they had to first apply to the local government. The office would approve their request and inform them of the colors they could use. This system is still in place today, and the local government imposes strict regulations that require a great deal of upkeep. Burano stays beautiful because it’s the law!

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