Porto Rafael is a small luxury tourist center that faces out over the islands of La Maddalena archipelago. Note the predominating colours, the azure of the sea, the green of the vegetation and the white of the villas nestled among the granite rocks of the hill called Punta Sardegna.
Porto Rafael was founded and built in the 60’s of the 20th century by the Spanish Count Rafael Neville de Berlanga y del Duero. He came from a rich and cultured noble family. The family’s circle of friends included many of note people from the fine arts and show business, such as Charlie Chaplin and Picasso. The Count led an adventurous life, residing in various countries trying his hand at dance, as an artist as well as a painter. However, his greatest passion was probably nightlife and many famous people of his times participated in his frequent parties.
“Dreaming is living”
Legend has it that the Count built Porto Rafael following a dream. He personally said: “I dreamt about my own kingdom in a bay with a square, several white houses and close to seven fascinating islands” He sought his ideal place first in Nice, than in Corsica and finally in 1959 he arrived in Sardinia. On the building that represents a fictitious municipality house of Porto Rafael there is a ceramic plaque bearing his motto: “Dreaming is living”.
Count Rafael built his village with style and elegance. Right in the middle there is a square facing Cala Inglese (the English bay). Not far from the square we can find one of the smallest churches in Sardinia dedicated to Santa Rita da Cascia – just a tiny altar and 4 seats. Apart from the square and the church there is a small marina, the yacht club that organizes international sailing events, and a couple of sport facilities. But above all there are the luxury villas. All around there are white villas hidden in the colorful gardens with private swimming pools. The villas were built according to the projects of various architects from 1960 on, but the main square was designed personally by Rafael. As soon as he built his first house in the square, he sold it and invested the money in building Perla Blu, the center of nightlife in the 60’s.
Count Rafael or the Great Gatsby?
Almost immediatelly Porto Rafael became the preferred location for summer holidays and the carefree life of many famous people from international show business. The Count’s great charisma attracted to Porto Rafael many VIP guests. Legends say that every night at Porto Rafael only the best Champagne was poured. Every year the parties reached a pinnacle on the 21st August, Rafael’s birthday, when all the guests, dressed in white, celebrated the Count and danced in his honor.
Rafael Neville lived in Sardinia until his death. In 1998 honorary citizenship was bestowed on him. He is buried in a small cemetery in Palau. In any case, his dream goes on even nowadays thanks to the Consortium that manages the village and, exactly as in Rafael’s times, perseveres in promoting dream villas, silent, serene atmosphere and beauty.