Sunday, August 24, 2014

A Pop of Color

“Color is like music. It uses a shorter way to get 
to our senses to awaken our emotions.”
~ Sign on a house in Burano

(Please note: Being without internet is a bit daunting for me.  I'm several posts behind and will post when I can get to a Wi-Fi connection that actually is strong enough to handle the posts.

You may remember that right after I arrived in Venice, I asked one of the gals in the tourist information office if it was a long boat ride to Burano, and she told me, “Eet’s only a lee-till-a time-a to go-a by boat-a.” She apparently thought I asked if it would take long to swim to Burano because, by boat, if you include the 45 minutes it took to get to St. Mark’s Square, it took three boats and over two hours.

Once I got to St. Mark’s, I switched to the island-bound boat. We headed for Murano, the island made famous for its beautiful glass. The island is lovely, but it’s whole “thing” is Murano glass, and I really had no interest in seeing it again.  I got up to watch the boat pull into the dock, though, and was standing next to the steward who throws the ropes to anchor the boat to the pier.


ATTENZIONE!  ATTENZIONE!” She suddenly screamed in my ear. “MAMMA MIA!” I turned just in time to see a showoff in a speedboat notice that he was heading right for the backside of our waterbus. The two women in his boat and the people at the back of our bus screamed in unison as the showboater heaved the wheel to the right and just clipped the rubber bumper of the bus. “Mamma mia! Che pazzo!”  As we docked, Signor Showoff slowed to check his boat for damage and, finding nothing big, roared off again. 

(Side note: I was happy that no one was hurt, but I was happier to hear the steward call the showboater “pazzo," my favorite word of the month (crazy). Do I have my priorities in line or what?)

Those of us going to Burano changed boats at the next stop and headed to Burano…or so we thought. For 45 minutes, we cruised to different islands in the Venetian lagoon, letting passengers off on each one.  Finally, at almost 1:00, we finally docked at Burano.

A bridge over a canal
Like Venice, Burano is an archipelago of islands (four) connected by bridges (Most like the one in the above photo). While Murano’s main attraction is its glass, Burano’s popularity is due to its lace, food, and colors.  Since I don’t like fish, I didn’t care about the food part, but I love lace and had a bit of interest in buying something if it caught my eye. More  importantly, though, I wanted to see the colorful houses.

Legend has it that the ancient fishermen of Burano painted their houses bright colors so that they could see them while they were fishing out at sea.  The houses, which are mostly rectangular and two- or three-stories high, follow a special color palette. Island residents who want to paint their houses must send a letter to government officials, and they reply with a list of colors from which the resident can choose one to paint his house.  The different colors, by the way, indicate the different property owners.  If you note the photo below, the red house between the gold and pink houses is only two stories, and the other two surround it on top as well as on the bottom.
The colors differentiate whose house is whose

For most of the first hour I was on Burano, I just walked the island and delighted in the atmosphere.  The colors were breathtaking and such a change from other places in both Italy and the US. I wandered up and down alleys and bridges trying to take it all in.

As you might imagine, there are no cars on the island, so residents and workers carry things from one end to the other via boat or handcart. I watched one man maneuver his little boat into a spot in front of a restaurant, grab a net of fresh fish, and take them in for the cook.  A little later, I saw men pull up in a larger boat, load what looked linens onto a handcart, and run them to a different place of business. (Photo below) All in a day’s work.

Delivering linens by handcart
I noticed two things that really interested me: First, I noticed that a majority of the residents had their front doors open, but they hung sheets over the opening to keep the bugs—and prying tourist eyes—out.  It always amazed me that the people in the little towns here are still so trusting that they keep their doors open. In Bologna (and larger cities both here and elsewhere), everyone hides behind lock and key.

The second thing that caught my eye was the laundry. Monday must be laundry day on Burano because so many residents had theirs hanging out to dry.  From the upstairs windows, across alleys, on dryers in front of houses, laundry hung all over the island. My husband, who once hung his clothes on a community line above a street in Venice, would have loved it.

Laundry day
Eventually I ended up in the area where the shops were.  I walked in one and immediately fell in love with a lace-trimmed top.

How much?” I asked the gal running the shop.

For you, I make special deal,” she told me. “49 euro.” 

I’ll think about it.” I did think about it for 10 seconds.

A few shops down, I saw a linen dress that I liked. I was admiring it when the gal who worked there came up to me.

One hundred percent pure linen,” she said. “Hand-sewn by the mother of the woman who owns this store.”

Hand-sewn?” Call me skeptical, but I’d seen that cloth before.

Yes. Yes,” she replied. “She designed it especially for this shop.”  Right. “I give you a good price.  It’s usually 250 euro, but you can have it for 200.”
Needless to say, I left and went into another shop where I saw the same dress.

One hundred percent pure linen,” the gal in that shop said. “It is hand-sewn by the mother of the woman who owns this store.”

I looked at the seams, which, to me, looked like seams I’d find on a Made-in-Wherever piece of clothing. I wanted to say something snarky, but I’m not exactly sure how to snark in Italian, so I just smiled and walked out.

In the third store, I saw the same dress and a top that I liked. 

I’m sure by now you know that the gal in that shop told me, “One hundred percent pure linen that is hand-sewn by the mother of the woman who owns this store.”

“Does the same lady own all of these stores?” I asked Gal #3.

No, why?” she wanted to know.  I just shrugged. “I tell you what. You are nice American trying to speak Italian. I give you a good deal.”
Leaving Burano

As you might expect,  I heard the same story at every shop along the way. The clothes were all the same (and over-priced), and, every shop owner had a mother who designed, hand-wove, and/or hand-sewed everything in it.

Fortunately for me, the Saturday market in Bologna has the same 100% pure linen stuff for a lot less money. 

I wonder whose mother hand-sewed it.

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