Forty minutes from Murano, world famous for its glass, is the island village of Burano, famous for its lace … and where the dazzling colors of locales like the Caribbean meet the haunting qualities of the Venetian lagoons. Many visitors to Venice, perhaps forgetting one out of confusion with the other, or perhaps due to time constraints, choose to go to Murano and not take the second 40-minute vaporetto journey to its almost-namesake. But those who do are treated to some very yummy eye-candy. Along the canals are charming two-story houses — cherry, pink, chartreuse, azure, tangerine and canary yellow, with contrasting-hued shutters, brightly patterned curtains for doors, window boxes and ceramic pots overflowing with flowers, and some very nicely art-directed clotheslines.
Burano is also famous for its lace known as punto in aria, or “points in the air,” as it is not stitched onto fabric but only onto itself. Demand exploded in the 1600’s and the Venetian government turned lace-making from private production into a lucrative business of the Republic, organizing women into a guild — one of the richest in Venice — and moving most production from Venice to Burano due to the island’s lower costs.
No one really knows how all this exuberance began, but there are, naturally, many stories about the origin of Burano’s vivacious color scheme. One plausible suggestion was that back in the day, painting each house a different color helped define property lines. Another more amusing, though less plausible suggestion is that on days of winter fog or very rough seas, the fishermen could not go fishing and spent their day playing cards and drinking vino. By the evening they were feeling so festive they couldn’t recognize their own houses. So it was decided to paint every house a different color so every wife could be sure the right man would return to the right home after a day on the town.
For centuries Venice has been a beacon for writers . . . Lord Byron, Robert Barrett Browning, Henry James, Marcel Proust and, later, Ernest Hemingway and Truman Capote, just to name a few. For 19th and 20th century painters, Venice was a siren that called like no other place on the planet. Perhaps one of the reasons for its irresistible allure is that it is really two cities — one of majesty and solidity above, and an ephemeral one echoed in the shifting waters below. Venice’s shimmering reflections tell you so much about the essence of this city of mirrors and mirages … at once substantial and fluid, with a past that reverberates in its architecture.
The romanticized, mythical Venice may be hard to grasp on a steamy day in midsummer when the city swells with tourists . . . but when the fog, la nebbia, settles in, it is easy to imagine that things can appear and disappear in its labyrinth of canals, or that you could turn the corner and walk into the past.
This slideshow was put together with the hope that in the aftermath of last month’s historic flooding, Venice will be restored and once again appear as it did in the magnificent paintings by the likes of J.M.W.Turner, Edouard Manet, Claude Monet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Paul Signac, Raoul Dufy, Anders Zoran, Maurice Prendergast, John Singer Sargent, and James McNeil Whistler. (I am grateful to have seen and photographed so many of these wonderful paintings; photos I didn’t take myself are from Wikimedia Commons). Please consider donating Save Venice
“You may have the universe if I may have Italy.” – Giuseppe Verdi
La Bella Italia has inspired artists, dreamers and travelers alike for centuries with its iconic cities, rolling vineyard-covered hills, the dramatic coastlines of Amalfi and the Cinque Terre, its charming medieval hill towns, the sun-soaked and history-drenched islands of Sicily, Sardinia, Capri, Elba and Ischia and the spiraling Dolomites in the North. Italy is also “paradise found” for passionate foodies, lovers of art, architecture, history, opera, shopping, and so much more! Italy possesses its own special “alchemy,” that mysterious science of transformation. And indeed, something happens as soon as you arrive … a magical lightness of being fills you with joy and wonder.