Villa Lina, Venezia – A Review By Punam Mohandas
Personally, I am a huge advocate of the B&B (bed and breakfast) concept. I reckon there is no better or quicker way of learning about a new culture and customs than firsthand through mine host. Also, the experience of staying in an actual home far outweighs the impersonal, even clinical, atmosphere that most hotels affect.
Of course, there are B&B’s and then there are B&B’s! In my opinion, the Villa Lina at Venice is one of the most outstanding examples that truly exemplifies the essential spirit of a B&B, which is to be warmly welcoming without being intrusive, and open up one’s home to guests for a nominal price.
Run extremely capably by Signora Evi Nason, the Villa Lina is actually located on Murano, just twenty minutes away from popular San Marco (St Marks Square.) Although the narrow, cobble-stoned alleys seem confusing at first, Murano, world famous for its intricately hand-blown Italian glass artefacts, is so small that I had finished three rounds of the island and was back exactly where I started each time, almost without realising it.
The Villa Lina has been operational as a B&B since the last eight years and currently offers three double bedrooms and one single. The double rooms (one with twin beds) also have a sofa-cum-bed and so essentially can accommodate a triple sharing, with enough space left over for a child’s cot as well. Each room, be it single or double, is impeccably furnished and will put many a hotel chain to shame, offering amenities such as tea/coffee maker, electronic safe, small TV, air conditioner (yes!) and electric mosquito repellent. The bathroom is sensibly designed, with plenty of clothes hooks and a shower stall. It comes fully equipped with fluffy towels and all toiletries including a thoughtfully provided shower cap, body moisturiser, hair dryer and magnifying glass. There is no jet spray, rather, a bidet, in the European style.
While all the doubles overlook the garden, the single room is my favourite and quite possibly the best room in the house as the quaint, wooden Venetian shutters open on to stunning views of the canal, with bougainvillea creepers growing alongside adding that splash of vibrant colour. It is all incredibly tranquil and the visuals are right out of a postcard!
Breakfast is from 8-9.45am, served in the dining room if it is raining or else, out on the little terrace overlooking the canal. There are three tables inside as well as outside. Breakfast includes cereal, toast, lovely, warm croissants, jam, butter, cheese – including fresh mozzarella but of course – cold cuts, fruits, juice, eggs to order and a variety of strong Italian coffees such as espresso and cappuccino, as also the American style.
Guests are welcome to make use of the living room, which comes with a real fireplace! It is a cosy lounge space with marbled flooring where they can browse through their host’s little library or else, watch telly. Ms Evi’s hugely talented husband Carlo was a master glass blower in his day and the house is filled with unusually designed and crafted pieces by him, be it the standing wall lamps, the delicate chandeliers or the geometric mirrors.
While Ms Evi strictly does not allow cooking, she has no objection to guests bringing in food and heating it in the microwave, so long as the meal is eaten at the dining table and not in the bedroom. All crockery and cutlery is available for guest use. Guests are not allowed to use the washing machine, however, they can request her to do a washing load at a nominal charge of 15 euros.
Although there is no computer available for guest use (there is free wifi) there is a printer, should you need to print out your tickets. Ms Evi is extremely obliging and is kind enough to look up any rail or air information to help you along. She also provides all her guests with a local map of Venice.
Ms Evi may belong to an earlier, older generation (she is 66) but she has her finger firmly on the pulse of today. The Villa Lina does its bit towards being environment friendly, by having sensor lights in the corridors. Also Gaya, her daughter, has plans to turn the sizeable downstairs patio area along the canal, into an intimate wedding venue.
More than looking upon this as a regular B&B or comparing it to a hotel, I would urge visitors to reflect on the unique slice of Venetian history they are being invited to share whilst living at the Villa Lina. The house dates back to the 16th century and was bought over by Ms Evi’s father-in-law in 1920, who then built a glass factory on the premises along with his brothers; the family hails from a generation of glassmakers. Ms Evi still has a collection of wine glasses and other artefacts that have been in her family since centuries!
The original (16th century) stone water pump is still there around which a green arbour has been planted. The house is located along one of the quieter canals. There are a couple of sunbeds along the tiny stretch of garden for you to sunbathe. During the summer, in the late evenings when fresh water flows into the canal with the tide, you can just jump off the Villa Lina’s private dock and into the canal for a refreshing swim as Ms Evi’s grandchildren do. The whole scene is unbelievably picturesque and the atmosphere is so soothing and tranquil that you find yourself lingering around instead of heading to the shops and hustle-bustle of San Marco.
Ms Evi and her entire family, including her sister-in-law who helps her in keeping the B&B clean, are so unobtrusively friendly. It is quite literally like living with a family, as you bump into the amiable Carlo over morning coffee, or Gaya as she is rushing off to a meeting. However, you are absolutely assured of your privacy – about the first thing Ms Evi does is hand over a bunch of keys, including one to the outside door and she has no time restrictions regarding when her guests must return.
The whole family was so hospitable and welcoming towards me that I have very definite plans to return to the Villa Lina. Although it has all the modernities, it gives off a very definite impression of a place that is redolent with Venetian history and old-world charm and courtesy. One would be hard put to find another such accommodation in a world that prides itself on the cookie cutter mould.
From Murano to San Marco by vaporetto is 15 euros, however, you can take the boat from Murano to Fondamenta Nuova instead (5 euros) and then walk to San Marco which actually reveals more hidden, scenic sights than just taking the ferry; as Ms Evi rightly says: “It is fun getting lost in Venice.” I stumbled across a delightful bakery run by two elderly ladies, piazzas where the locals (and not the tourists) hang out, ancient stone fountains that provide chilled, potable water, traditional old houses with massive baskets of vivid red and purple geraniums hanging outside the balconies, and more.
All major airlines fly into Venice’s Marco Polo airport; do remember that the low cost carriers fly into Treviso airport, from where you would then need to get into Santa Lucia rail station, so factor in that cost too.As soon as you come out of the main airport exit, follow the sign that says ‘Darsena’ (it is quite a walk, about ten minutes) which will lead you to the Alilaguna Blu vaporetto line. Buy a ticket for Murano Colonna (eight euros.)
From the pier at Murano Colonna, it is just a five minute walk to the Villa Lina; the sign on the massive door outside reads as Carlo Nason. Don’t panic if you think you’re getting lost, as you’re not, really; all the tiny alleys eventually lead back to the pier!
If you are arriving by train, take the boat line 3 or 4.2 to Murano Colonna.
Taxi boats are also available from the airport/trains station, which would cost about 70 euros.
Tel: +39 0415275358
Fax: +39 041739036
Please note: The Villa Lina is closed during December and January every year.
Punam Mohandas asserts her right to be identified as the author of this work. Any views or opinions expressed in this review is that of the author.