Why the Italian island of Burano is well worth the effort

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Burano, in the Venice Lagoon. Photo: Orna O'Reilly
12:10 CEST+02:00
Burano, an island in the Venice Lagoon, is often overlooked by visitors to the famous canal city. But Orna O'Reilly tells us why the island - which last week came second in a Forbes "most beautiful places" list - is worth a trip.

For those of you who have never heard of Burano, I can tell you that it is an island in the Venetian Lagoon famous for its colourful fishermen’s cottages.

Just a 40 minute vaporetto (water bus) ride from Venice itself, it is often overlooked by those who visit La Serenissima on a tight timetable and decide it is not worth the effort. Wrong! It is a wonderful place to visit and – summer or winter – it never fails to delight.

With a population of less than 3,000 hardy souls, it a densely built-up little island interwoven by canals filled with colourful fishing boats which match the bright houses.

It is situated at the northern end of the Venetian Lagoon and – apart from being highly photogenic – is famous for its lacework. As you stroll through the island’s labyrinthine, narrow streets, you will see many ladies sitting in the sun, chatting with their neighbours, while making the delicate Burano lace. Dating from around the 16th century, it is part of the island’s history and, if you are interested, you can pay a visit to the Museo del Merletto (Museum of Lacemaking). So let’s take that sunny stroll...

As you wander across the many little bridges, you will notice the ominously leaning bell-tower (campanile) of The Church of San Martino.

I also love to look up at and admire the many altane (wooden roof terraces) which are positioned to take the sun and sea breezes during the hot days on the island. Used for dining, sunbathing or just admiring the view, you will notice many altane in Venice too. Just look up and take note!

Eating in Burano

As far as food is concerned, it’s obviously all about the fish and my own personal favourite restaurant there is Al Gatto Nero (The Black Cat) where I have been eating as often as possible since about 2003, when I first visited the island.

Not to be missed is the Risotto alla Buranella, which is simply fabulous. Made from the giozzi fish from the lagoon, it is creamy and full of delicate flavour.

Their pasta and dolce are excellent too. Another good restaurant is Ai Pescatori (The Fishermen). It also serves Risotto alla Pescatore (seafood risotto) which is utterly delicious.

Getting there:

On arrival at the railway station in Venice, hop aboard vaporetto No. 4.1 to take you to Fondamente Nove then change to the No. 12, which will take you to Burano via the island of Mazzorbo, which is worth a look and is attached to Burano by a footbridge.

It is an interesting journey, heading north on the vaporetto, passing by the cemetery island of San Michele and the famous glass blowing island of Murano, eventually spotting the church tower on the tiny island of Torcello. You’re almost there!

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Arriving in Burano, you will find yourself – after passing by one of the few green areas on the island – heading down a narrow street full of shops selling lace, including pretty umbrellas and fans. These shops are highly attractive and very few people can manage to escape from this little street without being lured into one of the gorgeous shops full of colourful scarves and dresses.

Almost all of my visitors to the Veneto over the past few years have been persuaded to visit Burano and all have been enthralled. Well worth the effort.

Orna O’Reilly is a former interior designer from Ireland who lives in Veneto and writes. You can find out more about her and her life in Italy by visiting

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