I was walking through the street of Burano Island, it was a sunny day, a soft wind was blowing.
The first thing that hits you when you drop off the “vaporetto” is the smell of fried fish from little bars and typical restaurants, water all around and an explosion of colours. Each house, in Burano, is painted differently from the other, colourful laundry was hanged out of the windows, blowing in the breeze. The ferry boat that takes you to Burano from Venice is enormous, probably the biggest I have ever seen, and it’s always crowded. People from all over the world go and visit the island, unique in the world.
Walking along, the charm of the place is softened by the invasion of tourists: they are so many that you will surely see more tourists than inhabitants. At each corner, on each bridge, someone is taking selfies and pictures and posting them on some social networks.
I keep on walking in the fresh air, looking around, admiring the colours and the beauty of the place.
An old woman is smoking out of her blue house, her lazy cat is laying down on the windowsill, enjoying the sun, between two flower bowls.
“It’s so quiet to live here.” she tells me. “You know…no cars, no pollution, no traffic jam, no dangers. It’s just us and the water. Water is the only danger.”
She tells me a bit of her story, her accent is strong, I struggle in understanding some words but keep on listening.
She was born in Burano and lived there ever since. “It’s like a piece of heaven” she tells me.
Her house is close to the famous “Tre ponti”, where two canals and three districts meet.
“The oldest people call me when they need to cross the bridge, I’m used to helping them every day. We perfectly know each other, we are all friends here, it’s like a big family. You never feel alone, you can always knock at someone’s house and have a talk. It’s like heaven” again, she tells me. “Look at my door: I have no door; this is just a curtain.” I notice that almost all the houses has no door, but just a colourful curtain. I wonder how it feels to live so peacefully in our contemporary world. We lock our doors because we are frightened, everything can become a danger, anyone can be an enemy, we live in suspicion and fear.
How does it feel to live so fearlessly that your door is always open?
Her husband comes out of the house, caresses the cat and join the conversation.
“We do not mind have tourists around, it is a resource: tourism is very important for us, it’s the main activity together with fishing and craftsmanship. However, sometimes, you know, it feels like they do not understand that this is real life, that this is our daily routine. It is important to understand that Burano, as Venice, is not a playground, it is real. Often, while we are having lunch, someone draws our curtain: they are curious, they want to see the inside of our funny houses, but this is our private dimension! When I see them drawing the curtain and peep out, I just smile at them and say ‘Buon appetito!’.”
“It must be wonderful to live here” I say to my special guide.
“It is… but nobody stays in the end.” I see sadness coming in her eyes. “A few years ago, I bought a house for my two daughters, trying to provide them a reason to stay. But none of them remained here, they both moved to Jesolo, they settled there.”
The sun is setting, it reflects wonderful colours, together with the houses, in the canals.
Nevertheless, Burano seems very different to me from the moment I arrived.
Its grace, its calm, its unspoiled reality lives together with its isolation and depopulation. What will happen to a place like this when no one wants to live there anymore? The fear of seeing this little piece of Haven becoming a playground for tourists – as it is happening to Venice – is big, but what can we do to save it?
Perhaps the key might be in a talk like this, bringing to light some memories hidden which reveal the true existence of a place. Despite our everyday rush, the secret may be in taking a little time to rest, not stopping asking why and listening to a bit more.
by Federica Biscardi