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Silvia Zanella, a licensed guide who was born and raised on Burano, offers inexpensive walking tours of the colorful fishing and lacemaking island in the Venetian Lagoon.
Burano is an island in the northern reaches of the Venetian Lagoon, about 40 minutes from Venice by public water bus. (See our Venice Islands Tour article.)
The island is best-known for its colorfully-painted houses, its Lace Museum, and the local fishing industry. (Fishing isn't as important to Burano as it once was, but you'll still see boats with clamming gear tied up at local piers, and there are plenty of restaurants where you can enjoy traditional seafood dishes.)
We've visited Burano any number of times over the years, but in April of 2016, we had a chance to enjoy an insider's view of the island with Silvia Zanella, a Burano native and licensed guide who now offers Discover Burano walking tours in English and Italian.
Her inexpensive walking tours are a delightful alternative to the crowded commercial tours that bring groups to the island. Instead of being herded around in a big group, you'll stroll around Burano with a personable young woman who'll point out landmarks, talk about the island's culture, and answer questions on anything from Burano's lacemaking industry to "Where do the local children go to school?"
During our own tour, we were introduced to the island's history and culture, but we also learned how the local people live and work. (We had encounters with quite a few Burano natives during our tour: Silvia Zanella has spent most of her life on the island, and she exchanged greetings with local acquaintances in Italian or the Buranello dialect as we walked around.)
Discover Burano's basic tour is the "Secret Corners of Burano Island" walk, which is available in one-hour and 1.5-hour versions every day except Monday. (This is the tour that we experienced.)
Other public tours are available, with topics ranging from "Artisans of Burano" to "Burano from the Sky" (stair-climbing required) and "Burano & San Francesco Island."
You can also book a private tour for one to 10 persons, with narration in English, Italian, Spanish, or French. For current tour listings and prices, see the Discover Burano Web site.
ACTV, Venice's transit authority, operates two waterbus lines between Venice's historic center and Burano:
runs from Fondamente Nove to Burano, taking just over 40 minutes for the journey. (In summer, you can catch the boat at San Zaccaria, near the Piazza San Marco, but the trip will be longer at about 75 minutes.)
From spring through fall, runs from San Zaccaria in Venice (Pier A) to Burano by way of the Lido and Punta Sabbioni. (In the winter months, this route doesn't serve Burano.)
Tours depart from the waterfront park at the Burano ACTV station. (Look for a guide holding a "DiscoverBurano Tour" sign.
Buy an ACTV Travel Card, and you can travel as much as you want on the ACTV vaporetto network for a period of one to seven days (depending on which version you choose). For example, you could use a one-day Travel Card to visit Burano, take a side trip to Torcello, stop at the glassmaking island of Murano on your way back to Venice, and enjoy a scenic nighttime ride up the Grand Canal on the No. 1 vaporetto.
Read about Discover Burano's tour highlights, check current departure times and prices, book a tour, or make inquiries in English or Italian at DiscoverBurano.com.
Our day started with a trip to Burano on the ACTV's No. 12 "Lagoon North" water bus from Venice's historic center, which left the Fondamente Nove stop at 10:10 a.m.
During the 41-minute trip, the boat passed Venice's Marco Polo Airport. As the clouds began to dissipate and the rain lifted, we could see the Italian Alps in the distance.
The rain had stopped by the time we reached Burano's ACTV
Silvia Zanella was waiting on shore, holding a Discover Burano tour sign.
Houses near the pier showed off Burano's characteristic bold colors as the sun came out and illuminated the damp stucco.
Our tour began with an overview of Burano, an island that's located in the northern part of the Venetian Lagoon.
As we walked inland, Silvia Zanella told us about Burano's colored houses, when the color scheme came into being, and what rules or customs govern a homeowner's choice of colors.
She also described the typical layout of a Burano house and what steps are taken to prevent damage from acqua alta (tidal flooding) and other sources of moisture.
During the walking tour, we crossed a number of footbridges, including this wheelchair- and stroller-friendly bridge. (See the Comune di Venezia's Accessible Venice: Burano - Torcello map for an overview of the island's accessibility.)
We also enjoyed a moment of reflection on a Burano canal.
Silvia told us the stories behind several houses that didn't fit the typical Burano decorating scheme--including a house painted with a late artist's scenes and another with a geometric motif.
We took an obligatory photo of laundry hanging near a Venetian-style wellhead. (Burano's water is now pumped from an acquifer beneath the Lagoon, but--as in Venice--the island is dotted with stone wellheads from a time when rainwater was filtered through gravel and stored in cisterns beneath the pavement.)
Silvia led us to other landmarks on Burano, including the Church of San Martino with its leaning campanile or bell tower.
When the tour ended, we said good-bye to Silvia in Burano's business district. (She gave us pointers on restaurants and where to shop for the famous Burano Lace.)
Our tour had run beyond the allotted time--probably because we asked so many questions--but that was fine with us.
After exploring Burano's shops on our own, we returned to Venice on an ACTV motonave, the Poveglia, which stopped at several large waterbus stations (including the Lido) on its way back to Zaccaria (Pier "A", Pietà) near Venice's Piazza San Marco.
For more information, see: Discover Burano.
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