Say “Murano” and one tends to think of colorful glass and a daytrip, at best, from Venice. One rarely thinks of Murano itself as a destination for more than a glass-blowing class, some shopping, and a day-long respite from the stifling crowds in Venice. The Hotel NH Collection Venezia Murano Villa is rapidly changing that.
Unpopular opinion, I know, but I’m not the biggest fan of Venice. The city is unique, and certainly charming, but it has also become overrun with tourists and as such, is one of the few places in Italy where one can actually find a bad meal. When work was sending me there for a few days, my reaction was apathetic at best. When I found out I’d be staying on Murano at the Hotel NH Collection Venezia Murano Villa, I was intrigued but still not particularly excited if I’m being honest.
All of that began to change when I got on the boat bound for Murano at Marco Polo Airport. All of a sudden my adventure began to have a distinctly authentic Venetian feel to it. To get to the Hotel NH Collection Venezia Murano Villa without walking across Murano (which involves a lot of stairs and sweating if you’ve got baggage) as one of my boat companions did, you’ll need to change boats once you arrive at the island of Murano. The airport boat does not stop directly by the hotel, but the schedules seem to align, and unlike other things in Italy, the boats all ran more or less on time. The local boat however leaves you just 50m down from the hotel, with no stairs or bridges between you and the front door of the hotel.
You could easily pass by the Hotel NH Collection Venezia Murano Villa if you didn’t know you were looking for it. The unassuming façade does indeed have a small sign that says “Hotel NH Collection Venezia Murano Villa” but other than that the architecture and colors of the façade of the hotel blend seamlessly with the charming aesthetic of the island. Once through the doorway, however, it was clear that I entered a wonderfully unique property. The impressive glass chandelier in the lobby left no doubts that one had arrived on Murano.
I was immediately invited by the front desk clerk, Alvise, to take a seat while he assisted other guests. The comfortable seating area had chilled infused water available for guests, a welcome amenity on a hot Venetian spring day. Alvise quickly and efficiently checked me in, and offered a genuine welcome to Murano, asking if I had ever been before and if I required any information about the island. I allowed as how having arrived from New York, I would probably require and coffee and a shower if I were to retain any information. He smiled, and summoned a colleague over to escort me to my room. While I didn’t feel I needed an escort, I certainly appreciated the gesture. Soon, it became clear why I did in fact need the escort.
The property is in fact sprawled out over five or six different buildings. All of them are very much compliment the local aesthetic architecturally and blend perfectly with their surroundings. As jet lagged as I was, I was awed not only by the beauty of the property and the immaculate landscaping, but by the amount of outdoor space. It felt more like a resort in the Caribbean in that sense, rather than a hotel in a European city. I quickly realized as we walked towards the back of the hotel that the property takes up the entire distance between the canal and the open water behind the island. And there were views of the water everywhere, adding to the charm of the hotel.
The views from my room were no exception. What a gorgeous treat to open up the doors onto my Juliette balcony and look out at open water and off towards Venice, and the islands of Le Vignole and Sant’ Erasmo in the distance. Any doubts I may have had completely faded at this point – I knew I was in for a treat. My two-room suite had a living room with room to entertain, a walk-in closet, and a bathroom with both a standup shower and a tub.
One thing that I found the staff at the Venezia Murano Villa really had down to science were the little, subtle touches that truly make a stay feel luxe. Waiting for me in my living room was a plate with two of the most delicious little chocolate muffins along with fresh strawberries and a welcome note from the staff. And not a minute after my escort left, there was a knock on my door. I figured she had forgotten something, but in fact it was someone from room service with the coffee I had commented to Alvise that I so desperately needed – a very welcome gesture indeed.
This culture of hospitality was a running theme throughout my stay at the hotel. By day two, the staff at breakfast in the morning and at aperitivo in the evening all referred to me (and other guests) by name. The sprawling terrace overlooking the lagoon is the perfect place to enjoy aperitivo – the Italians answer to happy hour. The terrace sits just over the restaurant and bar, and expertly made cocktails arrive in no time, accompanied by snacks and some of the biggest, juiciest olives I’ve ever had the pleasure of coming across. Both evenings I was there, I had envisioned myself going out to find some charming spot on the island, bereft of day tripping tourists, to sit and enjoy a drink and some food. What I came to realize was that I was already staying at that spot, and the views really don’t get any better than those from the terrace at the Murano Villa. Both nights colleagues ended up coming to visit me there instead of going out.
The other pleasant surprise at the Venezia Murano Villa was their restaurant. Murano has a plethora of restaurants that are good, but typically only open for lunch, catering largely to the crowds that come over for the day from Venice. After venturing out and failing to find a decent dinner spot my first night, I decided to give the Venezia Murano Villa a try on my second night, and will forever be glad I did. The four-course menu I enjoyed was one of the best meals I’ve had in Italy, and as someone who has lived there, that’s not a statement I make lightly.
The amuse bouche was a delicate fish carpaccio laced with squid ink and stracciatella cheese – a combination I would have never come up with on my own, and it was absolutely delicious. We then moved forward with the Mozzarella DOP served with daterini tomatoes and capers – something so truly Italian in that the ingredients were so simple and so fresh, little else was needed to make the dish shine. The star of the show for me though was the spaghetti. I have a serious love affair with spaghetti alle vongole – spaghetti with clams. It’s one of my go-to “let me judge this Italian restaurant” dishes. And let me tell you, the culinary team at the Venezia Murano Villa absolutely nailed it. I would’ve previously said that part of the fun of having spaghetti alle vongole is picking the delicate clams out of their shells, but I had never had it where that was already done for you. What a delight to be able to just dive right in! It was also laced with sea asparagus, or salicornia, which gave a slight crunch and a delicious green note to the dish. My partner had the beetroot risotto with shrimp, which was also very good (a meaningful statement from someone who normally despises beetroot – the one vegetable I stay clear of).
Dessert was a sort of deconstructed chocolate strawberry cheesecake, with dehydrated strawberries, dark chocolate crumbles, fresh raspberry compote – a relatively light dessert that paired perfectly with the vin santo we were brought. All in all, if you’re looking for dinner on Murano, look no further than the Venezia Murano Villa – the menu may not be expansive, but what they do, they do very very well.
One side note, if you do venture out for food, make sure you do so at lunch, when the bulk of restaurants on the island are in fact open. Alvise pointed me just down the street to the Trattoria Valmarana, literally three doors down from the hotel, and I had some of the best pasta I’ve ever had there – do not miss their lobster ravioli with shrimp, nor their aperol spritzes.
All told, I’m a convert. I arrived not particularly liking Venice. I’ve now come to think that maybe everyone has it wrong. What one should really do is stay on Murano (at the Hotel NH Collection Venezia Murano Villa, of course) and enjoy a few days on the outer islands, maybe venturing into Venice itself for a day trip or two, but then escaping the chaos of the city and returning back to the calm, quiet comfort of the Venezia Murano Villa.
Hotel NH Collection Venezia Murano Villa
Fondamenta Andrea Navagero, 29
30141 Venezia VE