VENICE’S HILTON MOLINO STUCKY: A repurposed flour mill turned 5 star hotel
Chain hotels are faceless, corporate, and bland. A close your eyes and you could be anywhere in the world kind of experience – merely a place to put your head down at night. In my sniffy opinion, they’re all the same. That was until I first glimpsed the Hilton Molino Stucky in Venice, Italy.
Hunched on the banks of Giudecca Island, looking across the main canal to Venice’s historic centre, is the dramatic Neo-Gothic Hilton Molino Stucky. It’s an iconic structure that’s defined the Venetian landscape for more than 140 years.
Back in the day
Giovanni Stucky was an icon amongst industrialist, his commercial empire, the Molino Stucky, originally functioned as one of the largest flour mills in Europe from the 1880s until the 1950s. In its time, the Molino Stucky produced some the highest quantity flour on the continent. Following world wars, and Stucky’s premature death, the mill slowly began to decline and was later abandoned. It ceased operating in 1955, then stood vacant for 50 years.
First impressions are everything in this business
In the late 1990s the once flourishing mill joined the Hilton portfolio who, after completing a massive restoration project, reopened as the Hilton Molino Stucky Venice. Paying homage to its origins, the eight floor 13-building redbrick complex was transformed into a five-star hotel – complete with a rooftop pool and cocktail bar, both of which are hotel rarities in Venice’s heart.
The birds-eye views across the ancient city are mind-blowing
The 379-bedroom hotel has taken classic Venetian style and turned up the volume. The newly refurbished rooms and suites with light neutral tones, are timeless in design, décor, and modernity. It’s all merged with the venetian heritage, the lagoon history and that of the flour mill. The design details, hand-painted wall motifs and fabrics pay homage to it all.
Be sure to book a canal facing room
To look at, this historic Venetian gem is an architectural masterpiece; inside it’s a work of genius with industrial-chic blending with traditional and modern accents. It’s been sympathetically restored with interesting and original features of the old mill in situ.
The gastronomic highlight of your stay
For an unforgettable culinary experience book a dinner table at the hotel’s Aromi Restaurant. This is a culinary event you’ll not want to miss – it’s the hottest meal ticket in town!
You’ll have an emotional connection with Executive Chef, Luca Nania’s recipes, and discover delectable regional food flavours when paired with Italian wines, inspired by local ingredients.
“All my produce is traceable and is mostly locally sourced: for example, we use cuttlefish from Chioggia, and radishes from nearby Treviso. Every few months I visit all my suppliers and taste test all the ingredients for my menus. Once I’m completely satisfied with the outcome the next step is a taste session for the management team, so that we can gather everyone’s feedback and finalise the menu.
One of my signature dishes is octopus glazed with balsamic vinegar, with watermelon and sheep’s milk ricotta. I start by choosing only the Verace octopus (which is easily recognisable as the tentacles have a double row of suction cups). I put the tentacles inside a vacuum bag, adding sesame oil to avoid breakage of the skin, I cook it in my Roner at 77° for 5 hours. When the sous vide process is complete, I add some crunchiness by flambéing the tentacles with Modena balsamic vinegar. This is the recipe that I have been studying for years and have perfected the temperature and cooking time.
For me it’s all about a clean presentation and not too many ingredients otherwise it becomes messy – simplicity is key. I place maximum focus on the quality of the raw material, the perfect cooking process and presentation.
I had the amazing opportunity to work in many different kitchens. I think no one master has given me all the knowledge that I need for this very hard job. I’ve learned more from teamwork as everyone has a specific role and the final success is everyone’s merit.
My time at JW Marriott in Beijing (where I oversaw a large operation), is what I refer to as my ‘university’. I managed large volumes and delivered only high-quality dishes. This is where I learned how to work under pressure, run huge banquets and where my Executive Chef taught me a few Asian ‘must’ dishes.
The chef I admire the most would have to be Oldani. I find that my philosophy is very similar to his way of running a kitchen.
The most essential items in my kitchen are my Roner, as well as my hand-crafted knives – each has a special job to do.
But I’ll make no excuse about miles travelled in sourcing my Angus beef from Nebraska – it’s simply superb marbling and the best beef in the world. Sure, I could buy good meat locally, but that’s not good enough. I want the best.”
To demonstrate Luca pushed a hefty Nebraskan Angus spare rib under my nose, encouraging me to sample it and draw my own conclusion. Using his Roner, a microwave oven, then flash-frying it for a minute, delivered the most succulent and flavoursome beef I’ve ever tasted. It literally dripped off my fork.
How to get there
From the airport: The hotel is easily accessible from the Marco Polo Airport and can take up to an hour using a vaporetto (water bus), or 30 minutes by water taxi. From the Santa Lucia Train Station, you’re looking at a ten-minute vaporetto commute. You could hire a water taxi from the Consorzio Motoscafi Venezia counter at the airport’s arrivals level, immediately after leaving the baggage area.
From the cruise port: If your ship arrives at the main Marittima cruise basin, take the Alilaguna airport boat’s Linea Blu directly to the Hilton Molino Stucky. The price is around €8.
• To reach Venice’s famous sights like Doge’s Palace, St. Mark’s Square, and the Rialto Bridge use hotel shuttle.
• At the Hilton Molino Stucky Venice you’re shielded from the crowds however, you’ll not be totally isolated from Venice’s sights, shops, and restaurants as they are merely minutes away on a water taxi.
The ultimate guest experience
Today’s traveller is savvy, and they’re looking for more than bed and board, which is where the Hilton Molino Stucky have stepped up and personalised their experience, offering niche experiences relevant to Venice.
• a private guided boat tour discovering Venice, its islands, lagoon, learning of its history, geography, and traditions;
• a visit to the magical island of Murano and see the ancient art of glass blowing at the hands of an expert glassmaker;
• the brightly coloured fishermen’s island of Burano, where traditional delicate Venetian handmade lace is made;
• the peaceful island of Torcello, famed for their incredible Byzantine mosaics in the Cathedral of Santa Maria Dell’Assunta;
• a privately guided tour of The Peggy Guggenheim Museum, one of the most impressive galleries in Italy;
• an afternoon at Lido Blue Moon, a private beach resort thirty minutes away from the hotel on the island of Venice Lido;
• The hotel’s pastry chef, Giovanni Petrillo, has a baking class where he’ll teach you how to make the perfect dough and the traditional S-shape of the famed buttery Bussola cookies.
Cocktails on the roof
The hotel’s crowning glory is the chic Skyline bar – one of the most exclusive locations in the city. Yes, drinks are expensive, but not overly so. This is a cocktail bar in Venice, where everything comes at a price – especially if a bird’s eye view is thrown into the mix.
You can sit outside on the terrace or at your own table inside. Be sure to make a reservation and request a table well placed to take in the views. During the summer months there are pool parties, and regular live music and DJs on the terrace.
The cocktail menu is inspirational, and the mixologists like to show off their creativity. I have intimate and repeated knowledge of their Rum Havana Club Special, so it comes recommended. Check out their cocktail menu – www.skylinebarvenice.it
• Staff have a raw passion and an intimate knowledge of their city.
• Peaceful location, away from the crowds.
• Stunning rooftop pool, bar with panoramic views, as well as a spa.
• Four bars and restaurants in the hotel.
• Shuttle service directly to San Marco.
• Situated out of the centre, away from the main attractions.
• Spa access cost €20 ($30) per person, and you need to book in advance.
• Unless you’re a Hilton frequent flyer card holder, you will need to pay for in-room WiFi (my pet peeve!), but it is complimentary in common areas.
• Value for Money? Prices start at €190 ($282) per room (double occupancy), which includes breakfast.
• Access for guests with disabilities? There are 20 adapted rooms.
• Family-Friendly? There are several interconnecting rooms and family suites. Baby cots and highchairs can be provided. Babysitting services can be organised.
First published at Travel Industry Today