The Villa Ammiana is a self sustaining eco-resort with orchards, gardens, fisheries, and a yoga studio.
Private islands in Venice’s northern lagoon are largely unknown by the millions of tourists drawn to this region of Italy each year. But those who venture 45-minutes north of the city to the island of Santa Cristina are privy to the natural beauty that René Deutsch and his wife Sandra have enjoyed for the past 20 years. Now, after decades of being off limits to the public, the Deutsches are sharing their private island retreat with travellers who seek a more private and eco-minded alternative to the typical Venentian tourist hotel. After years of preservation projects and extensive renovations, the Deutsches have opened Isola Santa Cristina as a luxury rental called Villa Ammiana.
Like many other islands in the lagoon, Isola Santa Cristina was at risk of succumbing to global climate change and the rising waters that have swallowed many of the lower floors of Venetian homes. In the 1980s, when Mr. Duetsch’s stepfather Gernot Langes-Swarovski purchased the island, its 74-acres were in danger of being overcome by the lagoon. The family built a protective breakwall using thousands of tons of soil and granite block stone and planted native trees along its banks to protect it from potential flooding. They set to work reinvigorating the island flora by planting persimmon and apricot orchards, olive trees, vegetable gardens, and grapevines, which the Deutsches harvest for Gianluca Bisol, a winemaker and on the neighboring island of Mazzorbo. Bisol uses the grapes from Isola Santa Cristina to produce his limited edition Venissa Rosso.
“We want our guests to connect with this really fragile and beautiful place in the world,” Mr. Deutsch told Travel + Leisure. “But in doing that, we’re also carefully trying to create a healthy balance with the islands ecosystem, be at harmony with the larger lagoon area, and live in a sustainable way by growing our own food on the island and working with our neighbors.”
The Deutsches spent more than a half million dollars to renovate the island’s nine-room Villa Ammiana, which can comfortably accommodate 16 guests. They replaced the home’s Austrian chalet-style decor of wood interiors and taxidermy with a contemporary design of white walls, glass tables, and whitewashed larch wood flooring. The villa also serves as gallery space for the couple’s collection of photography and sculpture. The bedrooms are large, some with exposed wood beam ceilings and oversized, spa-like bathrooms. Every room in the house has striking views of the island’s vineyards, fisheries, and gardens. The couple also added a pool with a large lounging deck enclosed by palms and flowering shrubs. The Deutsches also brought their love of Ashram yoga to the island by building a lofty studio.
“The simple design of the villa, the yoga studio, gardens, and this larger idea of being food and energy independent are what make this island a truly complete and independent place,” says Deutsch. “There’s a sense of peace when it all comes together, similar to Ashram.”
Part of what makes the Isola Santa Cristina so appealing is that it’s almost entirely self sustained. It is possible to hop on the Deustches' boat and leave the island for meals and day trips to the islands of Mazzorbo or Burano, just ten minutes south of the villa, but why leave at all? The island’s orchards and gardens, fisheries, and dozens of hens provide the kitchen with ample ingredients, which local chefs use to prepare Venetian dishes for guests.
Scroll down to see photos of Isola Santa Cristina and the Villa Ammiana.