A small, but very ambitious boutique hotel
The inhabitants of the tiny Mužolini Donji probably never thought that their village would one day become a ghost town, with most of its residents moving out. Until recently, only three people lived there. Leopold Botteri, a former journalist for Slobodna Dalmacija and a revolutionary when it came to the production of olive oil in Croatia fell in love with the village. Leopold became famous for his brand Uje and the olive oil cooperative called Bracchia. All of his entrepreneurial projects stem from a deep-rooted love for authentic Croatian stories. He discovered the village completely by accident while embarking on a gourmet exploration of Istria.
Elegant and authentic
The core of the old village was kept intact, only upgraded with additional hotel content. The result is an authentic story in which native inhabitants are involved as well, living in symbiosis with the hotel guests. These kinds of hotels are called dispersed, but in San Canzian’s case, the proper term would be integrated. The hotel blends really nicely with its surroundings, despite the old village having to adapt to the expectations of modern guests.
The hotel has 25 rooms and is suitable for smaller and very exclusive incentive groups. The best room in the house is definitely the private villa with above-standard furnishings. The man behind San Canzian’s architecture is Boris Ružić, who is famous for renovations that keep the character and essence of traditional Istrian architecture alive. He is also a successful meeting planner, organising many resounding regional events. We can confirm that he has managed to design a space filled with special energy, following his philosophy of timeless Istrian design.
Re-defining Istrian tourism
San Canzian is not an ethno village. It’s a well-rounded 5-star experience with one of the best restaurants in Istria and cuisine that massively exceeds the typical hotel restaurant offer. Istria has long ago been recognised as the most progressive Croatian tourist destination, providing guests with countless opportunities to explore. The selection of incentive programme ideas is truly vast, from adrenaline and active experiences to exploring the cultural heritage and tasting great food.
By definition, San Canzian guests are lovers of gastronomy and nature. They definitely come to the right place, as this part of Istria is the epicentre of the regional offer with some of the most avant-garde winemakers and legendary truffles. You can taste all of it even with a simple call to room service. Such an authentic menu is hard to find anywhere else and it’s a reflection of the hotel’s culinary philosophy. Forget about burgers and Caesar salads, order the traditional Istrian žgvacet and have some figs with gorgonzola and mascarpone for dessert. A box of Istrian snacks is a gift that I would proudly give to any foodie.
Highlight: Noel Restaurant
Originally based in Zagreb, Noel Restaurant has opened its doors in Istria as well. It has a Michelin star, representing the pinnacle of Istrian cuisine. Their wine card has over 600 different bottles. You can order a 4- or 7-course menu accompanied by wine from famous winemakers like Matošević, Kabola and many others. Ever since the grand opening, Noel has been a hot topic among gastronomes in the region. Keeping the kitchen in check is the amazing chef Goran Kočiš, who has quite an impressive resumé. The Noel team always tries to buy locally, which is not that hard when your restaurant is located in a culinary gold mine. Their seasonal menus follow that philosophy completely. Noel is an unforgettable culinary experience, which your meeting and incentive guests will applaud.
The co-owners of Noel Restaurant, chef Goran Kočiš and sommelier Ivan Jug are also big lovers of great coffee. Having a cup of coffee in San Canzian is an experience in itself, a treat for every hipster coffee aficionado. Right next to the hotel is a natural water stream, which is, according to the barista, the foundation of great coffee. Cold Brew is their speciality, prepared over the course of 24-hours and full of flavour. Excellent service, an intimate atmosphere and well-chosen ceramics elevate the entire coffee drinking experience.
The future of cocktails
Awarded the title Best Barman in Croatia, Karlo Ferenčak runs the Noel Bar in Zagreb, where they are famous for their cocktails. He is also responsible for the amazing choice in the San Canzian hotel bar. The cohesive thread in the hotel is fresh herbs. They grow all over the estate and Karlo uses them in his “mixology”, preparing tasty and creative drinks. You can even see them framed up in the hotel rooms. Mixing cocktails with Karlo could easily be one of the most popular activities for incentive groups.
Perfect for incentives
The San Canzian estate is a 20-minute drive from the seaside, but the views are simply amazing and you will have a tough time returning to civilisation. Not being directly positioned on the beach gives the hotel some intimacy and the possibility of privatisation, something that corporate groups always want. During our stay, we kept thinking about the Rent A Village concept that they have developed in Austria, which could easily be implemented in San Canzian as well.
Owners have already started to develop some interesting experiences for corporate groups, but I’m certain local DMC agencies will jump on the opportunity and develop their incentive product even further. The emphasis is, of course, put on culinary experiences, but there are many more possibilities. I really liked the idea of guests picking herbs from the hotel garden and making lunch, preparing their signature cocktail together with the barman or learning everything about the perfect coffee.
The hotel has immense potential and is definitely one of the hottest novelties of this year. It builds upon an original story and immense attention to detail, which puts it among the top contenders in the regional hotel offer. It’s also a true foodie paradise.