Along the northeastern coast of Sardinia, in the heart of Gallura, facing the Archipelago of La Maddalena, dissimulated in an essential landscape, characterized by majestic rocky masses and lush Mediterranean maquis, is concealed one of the most beautiful places in the world: Porto Rafael.
A location rich in charm and history, little known to mass tourism, Porto Rafael is a destination reserved for the few, for those who seek quality tourism, who pay attention to details, who appreciate the value of small things, which often turn out to be the most precious.
The legend of the vision
The origins and history of Port Rafael are shrouded in legendary halos as well as its very name. In fact, legend has it that to the Spanish Count Rafael Neville de Berlanga y del Duero, a nobleman of Anglo-Spanish origin, a lover of bien vivre and a lover of architecture and urban planning, a place so enchanting that it seemed like a vision had appeared in a dream and that, after traveling throughout Europe, but not only, after crossing Corsica, he finally reached Sardinia, he finally recognized the very place that appeared to him in a dream in that magnificent and reserved corner of Sardinia, where he landed in the 1960s: «This is the place I saw in my dream». Here was the love at first sight: here, facing the Archipelago of La Maddalena, on the stretch of coastline from Palau up to Punta Sardegna and Capo Faro, with discretion and care for the landscape, he made it his chosen refuge and built his home there. Three hectares of paradise, a triumph of Mediterranean maquis, myrtle, lentisk, asphodel and juniper, polished granite menhirs and a turquoise sea. From nowhere, even before Prince Aga Khan’s arrival in Porto Cervo, Porto Rafael sprang up.
That corner of Sardinia, still unknown to most, pays tribute to its founder by being named after him: Porto Rafael. An almost dreamlike landscape, where a small beach represents the heart of the place, framed by the green of the Mediterranean maquis, punctuated by the white of marvelous villas and the warmer colors of centuries-old granite rocks sculpted by the winds, all overlooking the deep, crystal azure of one of the most beautiful seas in the world.
Driven by his motto, “To dream is to live”, sealed by a commemorative plaque in his memory, the Count gave rise to a hamlet of indescribable beauty, whose life still revolves around the Yachting Club and the picturesque Piazzetta, fulcrums of local society: outdoor cafés and lounges, exclusive restaurants, charming boutiques, cozy and discreet hotels with a traditional flavor, and splendid villas surrounded by greenery. In these spaces, which although renovated have retained all the charm of Count Neville’s time, take place refined cultural events and lively social evenings illuminated by the stars and the sky, overlooking an enchanting sea. In particular, on August 11, the Piazzetta hosts what can, to all intents and purposes, be considered a true gala evening, during which, dressed strictly in white, the inhabitants of Porto Rafael remember and celebrate the founder of their common ‘home’. Cultural and social events follow one another throughout the season; the cool little church of Santa Rita fills up on festive days.
Over the years, Porto Rafael has gradually transformed from an élite gathering place to a real small, family-sized community, managed by the Porto Rafael Consortium, a context to which all inhabitants feel they belong and participate in the interest of the community, where one truly feels “at home”. Porto Rafael, in fact, is not just a place to live, but a way of understanding life, prioritizing family, authentic personal relationships, serenity, privacy and security, guaranteed by a dedicated security service operating all year round.
Porto Rafael’s villas
To this simple, genuine and homely atmosphere, certainly contributes the architectural distinctiveness of Porto Rafael’s villas, much of which can be attributed primarily to one of the most important architects in the history of the entire Costa Smeralda: Michele Busiri Vici. A promoter of a human language inherent in architecture and of an iconic style of Mediterranean architecture, Busiri Vici in fact affirmed that “In order to be truly harmonious, welcoming and human in the new Mediterranean style, I believe that houses should be designed completely freehand, without set squares, rulers, compasses or other working tools”. Indeed, he was firmly convinced that houses had human value, that they were created for man, to meet the needs of the people who lived in them, whose souls and emotions they became mirrors of.
This conviction gave rise to most of his villas, globally recognized as true works of art, as true tributes to nature, built with the intention of respecting and enhancing the natural conformation of the landscape, after a careful study of light, of exposure, of the needs of living, so that they were a guarantee of great privacy, of an ideal microclimate, camouflaged in the environment, characterized by the fundamental continuity between outdoor and indoor spaces, simple but with attention to detail, naturally devoted to offering great livability in terms of space, air, light and greenery; but above all conceived as unique and original pieces, custom-designed to harmonize thoroughly with the needs and soul of those who would inhabit them.
Porto Rafael’s dwellings are often secluded and concealed to ensure relaxation and privacy, and follow a Mediterranean architecture that is well embedded in the landscape, Mediterranean maquis and wind-smoothed granite rocks. Tidy, secluded, they are charming in their simplicity of sinuous white volumes, terraces and pergolas. Porto Rafael’s villas are places of serenity and well-being designed to long accommodate families and their guests who choose this resort for its refined, simple and authentic lifestyle.
The hamlet and the lifestyle
The characteristic alleys of the hamlet, first and foremost the ‘Discesa del Conte’, are a triumph of blooming bougainvillea and they all converge right towards the Piazzetta, which in addition to being Porto Rafael’s meeting point of choice, is also a true terrace overlooking the sea and the fabulous panorama of the islands of the Archipelago of La Maddalena. Sailing and approaching the Archipelago allows one to encounter beaches, nooks, coves, and islands with amazing colors and atmospheres, unique in the Mediterranean. Glimpses of beauty that constitute true works of art expertly produced by the work of the sea and the wind over millions of years: the beach Rosa di Budelli, Cala S. Maria, Cala Corsara, Lavezzi are unparalleled realities, with which it is impossible not to fall in love.
The beaches and the nature
The beach at the Piazzetta is in fact just one of the many that dot this magnificent stretch of coastline. Among the most renowned are the Baia di Nelson and Cala Inglese, just a few minutes from the hamlet, not to mention the proximity of the fantastic islands of the Archipelago itself, which can be reached in just a few minutes by boat: Santo Stefano, Caprera, Lavezzi and the Isola dei Cappuccini.
The Archipelago and all its wonders, as well as Corsica or the incredible inlets of the Costa Smeralda, are accessible in a few minutes by boat from the Marina of Porto Rafael, the Yacht Club Punta Sardegna, in front of the islands of Spargi and Budelli: set among granite rocks and Mediterranean maquis, the Yacht Club has been a popular and fashionable landing and meeting place since the 1960s, an additional reference point for sea and nautical lovers and for the guests of Porto Rafael. Although small in size, it is nevertheless able to accommodate up to 80 yachts, including those of great prestige and important dimensions of 30/40 mt.
A unique place
A friend of important figures, belonging to the world of cinema and not only, Count Neville had created Porto Rafael as a discreet vacation destination for a small international élite, a characteristic that, in part, has survived to the present day. Although not far from the more exuberant Porto Cervo, in fact, Porto Rafael continues to be the destination of choice for those in search of a deeper contact with nature, of distinctive architecture that is at the same time capable of offering maximum comfort while fully respecting the surrounding environment, of more authentic human relationships, but above all of peace and of that sense of imperturbable serenity that only the sea can instill.
Porto Rafael is thus a place more unique than rare, the Koh-i-Noor of the Costa Smeralda: a timeless place that one does not choose, but by which one is chosen, where a nature as majestic as fascinating has welcomed those who have known how to truly appreciate it, while entrusting it with the role of caring guardian and welcome guest.