The first time he came here, in Monti di Mola, Gallura, he was 24 years old. It was December 1960. It could have been the last. He had bought seventy hectares with his eyes closed at Romazzino, with a share of 500 thousand lire inside a company with about twenty partners.
The two Englishmen who founded it, Patrick Guinness and Ronald Grierson, had said to him: “you have to see those beaches! that sea! A dream! It’s like that of the Caribbean, but it’s only a two-hour flight from London, from Paris. " For him it was an opportunity to have a refuge away from everyone and everything.
‘When I got there that December, I realized I had been tricked. It was like a hunting reserve: there were no houses, there was no running water or electricity, or industries of any kind. I was unhappy that I had invested in that place, “he will say years later.
Everything was about to end before it even began. If he had left the investment, if he had not decided to take control of it personally, would the Costa Smeralda have been born? Would it then become what it is, or was, or one of the greatest development plans in Italy and Europe?
He didn’t give up. They persuaded him to wait for spring and summer 1961. His English friends told him. Those of Monti di Mola told him; the regional councilor of Arzachena Giovanni Filigheddu told him.In those months, they, those of Monti di Mola, found themselves negotiating the sale of their land, and imagining their future as never could, with him, without knowing the name. When they found out, not everyone knew who he was. “We couldn’t know if he was an important one or a little boy," said Simone Azara, a seller of Romazzino’s land years later.
They learned to know him early: they, the other Gallura people, the Sardinians. Years later Battista Orecchioni, one of the greatest brokers of Liscia di Vacca land and who recently passed away, will say: “Over the years, we have known many rich people, but like him, never anyone".
He too soon got to know them, the Orecchioni, the Azara: almost one by one, name by name. He also made a party for his wedding here, in 1969, after the celebration in Paris: as if they were his family.
They grew up together, he and those of Monti di Mola, he and Arzachena, he and Gallura, he and Sardinia.
Monti di Mola became the Costa Smeralda 62 years ago. The one who created it, who gave it a soul, who loved it and presented it to the whole world with pride, today turns 80. His name is Aga Khan, Karim Aga Khan. Everyone calls him Prince. The Costa Smeralda, in his life still full of ideas and projects, will always be his beloved.
They were divided years ago by a complicated relationship, made of extraordinary impulses, exceptional intuitions, difficult sacrifices. In reality, they never broke up.
That the Aga Khan did a business in India or America, the Costa Smeralda remained within him; it was his business. That the Costa Smeralda changed hands, from Americans to Americans, from Americans to Arabs, has always been his. For everyone, in the old Monti di Mola and in Gallura, it is so. It will always be like this.
Only he can know how much this feat has given him, how much he has taken away from him. In Gallura, they know one thing with certainty: they know how much he gave them. Something that money, which also played a big role, will never be able to buy. A future.