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.
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.
“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.
Venice’s pre-Lenten merry-making has inspired many a pithy axiom. For centuries Carnevale sumptuously celebrated the pleasures of the “flesh” both literally and figuratively, with its seductive devil-may-care ambiance. The word carnevale is derived from the Latin noun for “meat” (carnem) and the verb for “remove” (levare). A long ago church edict declared that whoever ate meat during the forty days of Lent could not receive communion on Easter, which was a big deal back in the day (also a clever way to ration meat which could be in short supply during the winter months).
Over the years the celebration of Carnevale expanded and expanded … with its festivities beginning with the Epiphany in January (when the Three Kings visited Jesus) to la settimana grassa (the fat week) leading up to Ash Wednesday. By the end of the Venetian Republic (the late 1700’s) Carnevale lasted, believe it or not, for nearly half the year (!) with merry revelers donning costumes and elaborate maschere (masks) and doing whatever (!) with whomever (!). Each year around this time, you can experience a joyous re-enactment of the original grand old party (about a 10-day affair) … and also partake in a dizzying photographic feast without equal! (All the photographs featured in this post are courtesy of Anita Sanseverino who has been taking dazzling photos of La Bella Italia for decades.)