The Mola Mountains: the origins of the Costa Smeralda

In the 1950s, the nature of the northeastern area of Sardinia was predominantly wild and was home to a few simple and rough rural structures, the stazzi, in which shepherds stayed during their travels with flocks and herds. Too busy with their work, the shepherds paid no particular attention to the unbelievable beauty that Nature had bestowed on that corner of Sardinia, which we now call Gallura, but which was then known as Monti di Mola.
In those days only a few daredevils ventured there, but soon the Costa Smeralda would blossom, like a flower in spring.

Birth of a dream

At the end of the war, at the turn of the 1950s and 1960s, Italy experienced a phase of great economic recovery, which brought with it economic rebirth and an intensification of “business” travel between European countries.

1959 was the year of the turning point. Giovanni Filigheddu, a regional councilor who hailed from Arzachena, convinced John Duncan Miller, the World Bank’s representative in Europe, to visit Gallura over a lunch of spaghetti and wine from Cala di Volpe.

Between Miller and Gallura it was love at first sight, so much so that, back in London, he transmitted his enthusiasm in the most important financial circles, involving various members among whom Patrick Guiness, half-brother of Prince Karim Aga Khan, deserves special mention. In fact, the latter was not present when a year later, in 1960, a group composed of the European élite took off from Nice to land in Alghero, intending to explore the land that had so fascinated Miller. Despite his absence, it was on that very occasion that the Aga Khan decided to invest 500,000 liras in the Établissement Romazzino, the new company that, by purchasing 170 hectares in the resort of the same name, gave origin to the Consorzio della Costa Smeralda.

A potential yet to be discovered

The contrast between the enthusiasm that prompted the Aga Khan to make his first investment “sight unseen” and the disappointment of his first time in Gallura was almost paradoxical. Upon his arrival in Porto Cervo, the land he had heard so much praise in Europe’s leading financial circles had seemed to him empty, almost desolate. It was only after his second visit, in 1961, that the prince became convinced that that land, seemingly wild and bare, actually had an enormous potential.

He founded the Consorzio della Costa Smeralda and in mid-March 1962, like the far-sighted visionary he was, entrusted it with about 1,800 hectares of Gallura land, along with the task of supervising and managing its territorial, architectural and urban development, so that the rampant building speculation of those years would not deface it.

The noble, and for the time innovative, intent to preserve the richness and naturalistic beauty of those places led to the establishment of a real Committee of Architecture.

The place where nature and architecture blend together

It was the Aga Khan himself who wanted some of the best and most renowned architects of those years on the committee: Luigi Vietti, Jacques Couëlle, Michele Busiri Vici, and Antonio Simon Mossa.

From the collaboration among the architects on the committee came what is still referred to today as the ” Emerald Style.” In particular, the Florentine architect Luigi Vietti drafted the general master plan and based his ideas on extensive research into Sardinian architecture, which he later reinterpreted, transforming it from a poor building style to a contemporary and welcoming one, but maintaining the matrix and materials of the local tradition.

Indeed, Vietti affirmed that “to study the spontaneous architecture of places is to understand nature itself, to understand the character of the people who inhabit those places, to understand the culture and the reasons for living, in a word to become part of their deep spirit, with humility.”

Jacques Couëlle, extrsordinary architect as well as eccentric artist and friend of Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dalì, chose to live on the rock overlooking Abbiadori and the bay of Cala di Volpe. Rather than build his own dwelling, he carved it directly into the rock. To him we owe the originality of an apparently poor architecture, because it was made of simple and essential materials such as stone, but characterized by plastic shapes, gentle curves and niches carved directly into the walls.

Michele Busirici Vici also preferred sinuous shapes with no corners, but to these he added a predilection for the color white and, more generally, for color choices that harmonized well with the colors of the surrounding nature.

Antonio Simon Mossa was a man with countless passions and just as many skills: in addition to architecture, in fact, he also devoted himself to literature, music and cinematography. To his creative genius we owe the coastal road of the Costa Smeralda, between San Pantaleo and Porto Cervo, with its magnificent panoramic stopping places and the belvedere, from which one can admire Cala di Volpe in all its boundless beauty.

Excellence and hospitality: this is the Costa Smeralda

If we wanted to define the Costa Smeralda in two words, they would undoubtedly be these: excellence and hospitality.

A place where natural and architectural beauty blend, enhancing each other, and creating a unique atmosphere, ideal for those who want to immerse themselves in nature, relax and enjoy some tranquility in total privacy.

Having always been the destination of choice for the national and international élite, the Costa Smeralda is the setting in which innovative projects by big names in global design, multi-starred chefs, luxury ateliers and world-renowned brands come to life.

The pursuit of perfection and the commitment to ensure that the Costa Smeralda continues to be a magical and one of a kind place are a constant challenge, a strong incentive that drives entrepreneurs to continue investing in this area, renewing and preserving it at the same time, in a virtuous circle that maintains and promotes its refinement and exclusivity.

All this contributes to Sardinia’s well-established position of prominence in all the rankings of luxury tourism and real estate. In fact, it is precisely the Costa Smeralda that is home to almost all the most sought-after villas, hotels, restaurants and clubs frequented by VIPs and millionaires from all over the world, won over by the endless possibilities it has to offer: walks along the shores of one of the most beautiful seas on the planet, sports of all kinds, from golf to yoga to sailing, food and wine specialties to be enjoyed while admiring spectacular sunsets, and absolute relaxation immersed in the colors and scents of the Mediterranean maquis: all without ever running the risk of being disturbed.

The only way to fully understand the “Costa Smeralda Style” is to live it: to get involved in the extraordinary nature of this land, of this priceless gift given to us by Nature.