Burano, a never-ending tradition

The second stop of our journey discovering the hidden gems of Italy
Nov 11, 2020

Just forty minutes from Venice, Burano is one of the most characteristic islands of the lagoon, a clutch of islets threaded by mini-canals and lined by eye-popping colored houses. Legend has it that these houses were this colorful so that the fishermen, returning home, could recognise their home in the middle of the fog or “caìgo” as they say, which in autumn and winter falls in dense shoals.

The history of the island has its roots in the origins of the city of Venice, when the population of Altino fled due to the barbarian incursions into the lagoon, on the neighboring islets. They named the island Burano, which derives from the word “Bora”, the cold and strong wind that is often heard blowing in the lagoon during the winter months.

The main characteristics of Burano however, are not its colors, but rather the lace-making: a tradition that can be traced back to the end of the fifteenth century.  The heyday of Burano lace ranged from about 1620 to 1710, driven by the demand from European nobility and royalty. Burano lace gained such fame that it became a status symbol for European nobles; portraits of nobles wearing outlandishly fancy lace collars helped make Venetian lace a status symbol among aristocracy from Ghent to Paris. 

Lacemakers have progressively lost the economic centrality, but the production still persists thanks to the activity of some ateliers that continue to pass on the vast know-how typical of this process.

For this reason, we couldn't resist going to visit one of the jewels of Burano’s craftsmanship: Emilia Burano, a boutique and workshop where for four generations the traditions and secrets of lace making have been nurtured.

 

Mr. Lorenzo, great-grandson of Emilia and creative designer of the family business, showed us around and told the story of the factory and unique pieces. As a matter of fact, most of Emilia’s lace products are one-of-a-kind pieces, designed and handmade specifically for their commissioners based on their purposes, by seven women who learned from their mothers and grandmothers (many of these pieces take years to be completed!). 

Besides lace products, the boutique Emilia produces fine bespoke home linen and furnishes some of the world’s most eminent residences, hotels, yachts, and private jets.

 

It was truly an amazing experience to discover such history and craftsmanship on this very little island!

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