Stay Here: Villa Nai 3.3, CroatiaBy Howard Malin
This is Zman for me!
I don’t know why, but I’ve never felt too drawn to Croatia. After receiving an invitation to visit, I wondered how the Dalmatian coast got its name? Which came first – the coast or the dog? I asked friend – who told me, with a straight face, that the coast is dotted with almost 1000 small islands – and was thus named after the markings on the dog! Not a bad try! Actually, it is named after the Illyrian tribe, the Dalmatae, who inhabited the region in Roman times. The dog came much later, from this region, probably in the 18th century. There – now you have it.
What is not in dispute is the beauty of the Dalmatian coast and its islands with their amazing beaches, incredible blue waters, picturesque villages and towns, and its welcoming and hospitable people. This country is as stunning, romantic and alluring as any of its European neighbours, to which I have always been drawn to in the past.
Villa Nai 3.3 Review: The Lowdown
Villa Nai 3.3 is a new five-star hotel in Zman, on the Croatian island of Dugi Otok (‘the long island’), equidistant between Venice and Dubrovnik in the Adriatic sea. It is a truly beautiful island, only 27 miles long by 3 miles wide, with a resident population of under 1500 people.
Opened only in July 2021, Goran Morović and his wife Neves have poured their passion and expertise in to creating an extraordinary rural paradise within ancient olive groves overlooking the sea, to complement the ever-increasing mountain of global awards garnered by their exquisite olive oil (more of which below).
Designed by Nikola Bašić, the visionary architect responsible for the sea organs of Zadar, the Villa Nai3.3 is built into a hillside, almost like the baddie’s lair in a James Bond movie, blending with and disappearing into, its surroundings on the olive farm that has been in the Morović family for 500 years. With 5 large rooms, 3 suites, two restaurants, a cocktail bar, an infinity pool, a tennis court, and a spa – the hotel offers, for me, the ultimate in luxury, sustainability and indulgence – made all the more extraordinary by its unexpected location on this unspoilt tiny and rugged island.
The luxury starts at the ferry port – where the complimentary Villa Nai 3.3 taxi awaits, with chilled towels to cool your brow after the ferry ride from Zadar. More cool towels await in the lobby on arrival, where they are offered again, by a phalanx of smiling staff.
Villa Nai 3.3 Review: The Rooms
It is not often that my jaw drops, even less so when shown to a hotel room – but drop it did when I was shown to my room at Villa Nai 3.3
Full width floor-to-ceiling sliding glass doors give way to private terraces, with sun loungers and comfortable cushioned chairs, maximising glorious views over olive groves, or the dramatic Adriatic coast, the sea and islands beyond. Beautifully furnished by Giorgetti of Italy, in neutral and soft tones, the rooms and suites lack for nothing. The suites feature four poster beds and fireplaces, and the spacious rooms all have sumptuous soft seating areas. Linens, bedding and complimentary slippers are by Frette, deeply comfortable beds by Cresp, coffee systems by Segafredo, toiletries by Hermes – you get the picture! Even the bedside pencil, with chunky pad, is a Fabre Castell 1.5HB Grip 2001!
The marble bathrooms by Agape are equally impressive, with their glass sided showers, twin marble basins, free standing baths, underfloor heating, more fluffy towels than John Lewis, and peppered with 11 bottles of Hermes toiletries. No skimping here! I couldn’t find fault with anything. So unusual for me!
Villa Nai 3.3 Review: The Food
As to be expected in this eco conscious hotel, head chef Yann Berger sources ingredients locally, many grown in the hotel’s own kitchen garden, with others from local farmers and fisherman. The food is five star – with impeccable white-gloved service and attention to detail.
Breakfast is casual and informal – and delightful when taken on the hotel terrace overlooking the olive groves. Freshly baked breads, croissants and focaccia, with home-made kumquat marmalade, are complemented by eggs from the hotel’s own coop. Healthy options – chia pudding with red berry coulis, and organic jumbo oat porridge with fruits – were my personal favourites.
The lunch menu is easy and accessible in the Grota 11 000 restaurant, within the stone courtyard of the hotel, with its built-in BBQ and fire pit. I loved the tartlette of Mediterranean confit vegetables and sliced Kulen sausage, and the txiogitxu burger ( I know – I had to ask too – txiogitxu relates to the age of the cows, and the length of time the beef is hung) was a revelation.
A fine dining menu in the evenings, in 3.3 Restaurant overlooking the olive groves and sea, features dishes paired not only with wines, but with their own three award winning olive oils. From island fish soup to local Zman goats cheese tortellini, the food was consistently delicious and service faultless.
A word of caution! Beware the full basket of warm home-baked breads that appears at the start of every meal, together with the three stunning award-winning olive oils for dipping. They were so delicious, and so addictive, I ruined my appetite for whatever followed because I have to self-control!
Villa Nai 3.3 Review: The Olive Oil
The 3.3 in the name relates to the average annual snowfall in this region – 3.3 days a year, which is sufficient to kill off any insects that could potentially spoil the olive crop. The hotel is inspired by and built around the 100 year old organic olive grove that lies at the heart of the hotel. Indeed, the hotel processes all its own olives, on the same day as they are harvested which gives them their unique and intense flavour, in the extraordinary state-of-the-art olive mill within hotel itself. The eighteen gold medals awarded to Villa Nai 3.3 olive oil, in global competitions over the past five years, together with a host of other awards and accolades, attest to the owner’s passion and dedication, and to the superb quality of the oils.
Villa Nai 3.3 Review: The Spa
Extraordinarily for a hotel with only eight rooms, there is a spa. Complete with outdoor exercise bicycle and elliptical stepper, an indoor saltwater pool, and a sauna – the treatments include divine Balinese massages, face and body treatments using the hotel’s own olive paste, and revitalising cold plasma therapy.
Things to Do
If you’re able to drag yourself away from the luxury of Villa Nai 3.3, activities abound for the more energetic– diving, fishing, sailing, hiking. The Telešćica Nature Park and Kornati Islands National Park are all within easy reach, as is the pretty village of Sali, the largest of the eleven villages on the island (with all of 130 residents!) and its’ quaint marina, café and bar. Pop in to Bar Maritimo for a cocktail overlooking the quay, and watch the yachts go by. Bliss
Villa Nai 3.3 Review: Our Verdict
There are luxury hotels, and luxury hotels. Then there is Villa Nai 3.3
For me, this was the ultimate. The food, the service, the spa, the rooms – coupled with the unique location- made this an unforgettable stay.
I am already planning my next trip – for early June next year (avoiding the crowds of July and August). I will fly to Zadar, spend two or three nights in one of the many boutique hotels in this quirky seaside city on the mainland, explore its Roman and Venetian ruins, and wander the ancient streets, before hopping on a ferry (1.5 hours) or catamaran ( 1 hour) to Dugi Otek’s port of Zaglav, and to Villa Nai 3.3, for another two or three days of sheer heaven. It can’t be beaten!
How to Get There
The island of Dugi Otek is served by ferry from Zadar, on the mainland.
Villa Nai 3.3 is open from April to October with five deluxe rooms and three suites starting from 590 euro per room on a B&B basis based on two people sharing. Direct flights to Zadar or Split can be booked on British Airways, EasyJet and Ryan Air, Jet2 from Gatwick, Heathrow, Bristol, Manchester, Leeds, Birmingham and Stansted.