Burano: overwhelmingly colorful, friendly and stormy!

Burano, a small island village in the Venetian Lagoon, was once known for lacemaking and fishing. Nowadays, its brightly colored houses make it quite the tourist attraction.

Historical context

Lacemaking, which has been a part of Burano’s history for centuries, has seen a sharp decline in recent years due to competition from cheaper, machine-made lace from other countries. Many of the older lacemakers have retired or passed away, and there are fewer young people interested in learning the craft.

Similarly, the fishing industry in Burano has also declined due to environmental factors such as pollution in the lagoon and overfishing. Many of the traditional fishing families have switched to other occupations or have left the island in search of better opportunities.

Despite these challenges, efforts are being made to preserve and promote the traditional crafts of lacemaking and fishing in Burano. Local authorities and organizations are working to support artisans and preserve the cultural heritage of the island. Additionally, tourism has become an important source of income for the residents of Burano, with many visitors coming to see the colorful houses, traditional crafts, and picturesque canals of the island.

Overwhelming at first

Visiting Burano for the first time, I was completely overwhelmed by the vibrant colors glaring in the sunshine and the bustling crowds. This is just something that happens to me since my brain tumor. So now, when I’m overcome by anything, such as a visually and physically busy scene like this, I’ve learned to try to focus on one detail at a time; so I shot a few postcard-type images of doorways and windows.

As the light was too bright, I hoped one day to return on a different occasion when I could take my time to explore and capture the more natural street scenes in golden hour light. Little did I know that it would be even better than that as you’ll see below…

NOT the leaning tower of Pisa, but leaning nonetheless

Thanks to my wife and two great friends we got to enjoy the rest of this particular visit including seeing this surprising leaning tower. It dates back to the 18th century and was originally built as a bell tower for the nearby church of San Martino. Over the years it began to lean due to the soft and unstable ground on which it was constructed, and despite efforts to stabilize the tower over the years, it continues to lean at a precarious angle – as mimicked by my good friends the Denhams!

Photo credit my wife and leaning credit John and Jo!

A change in the weather

A few days later, while enjoying a walk in Venice I saw some clouds on the horizon. My wife was enjoying the markets and saw me distracted by the weather unfolding so she thoughtfully asked if I’d like to go and take photos. I didn’t hesitate and hopped on a boat to get back to Burano.

As soon as I got on the boat, I knew it was going to be a different kind of visit as I was in no rush and could pace myself to enjoy the experience this time.

When I got there, there the changing light was starting to paint the scene, casting interesting shadows and highlighting life on the island.

Then, much to my delight, the clouds started gathering and the skies began showing some really interesting textures and contrasts.

The storm

Then a storm began brewing and I chased the light around the town looking for interesting views of the developing scene. As you’ll see below, the thing that always surprises me about light is how it can completely recast a landscape. The hues and color casts were literally changing in real time as I shot these photographs.

The people of Burano

Behind the canals were the scenes of 3 generations of people’s everyday lives. They too were colorful, as well as incredibly friendly and welcoming. I particularly loved seeing how the families helped each other between generations, with everything from getting the elderly out to playing with the kids.

It was a weekday so there were mostly children and elders, but one got the sense of a very tolerant community thriving among the incoming and outgoing tides of visitors.

Follow the rainbow..

A rainbow guided us right back to Venice 😊

Sometimes life and particularly photography is all about patience and timing.

Venice after the storm – use the slider to reveal the rainbow

I’ll be posting some of my photographs from Venice next, so sign up here if you’d like to follow our Italian explorations as we make our way across the country, down south to Puglia and eventually over to Sicily and the Aeolian islands.