When it comes to tourism pioneers in Sardinia, his name is always mentioned alongside that of Aga Khan. In 1964 Luigi Donà dalle Rose, together with his brother Nicolò, created Porto Rotondo from scratch. But the Venetian count, born in 1939, was a pioneer of island tourism well before he created the future VIP village. He was among the first to visit the island as soon as malaria was eradicated.
«It was 1951, I was only 11 years old – remembers Donà dalle Rose -. My father took my brother Nicolò and me with the motor sailer Maria Elena, a boat that he had purchased and which in winter transported building materials from Viareggio to Olbia, to then leave again with Sardinian products. We set sail from Tuscany and the first docking was in Tavolara … ».
Luigi Donà dalle Rose
What memory do you have of that first time in Sardinia?
“I’ve never seen so many fish in my life. It was unimaginable. My father had given us the first fins, the first masks and we dived in the waters of Tavolara. I remember that among many fish we also found a torpedo that we reported to the police. “
What was Sardinia like then?
“There was very little, there was Olbia, but there was no hotel. Sardinia at that time was ninety percent fishing. My brother and I were huge diving enthusiasts. And in fact we started going to the island for that very reason. For ten years we have come to fish between Sardinia and Corsica ».
In those years, tourism was still a select few …
«The first boats were starting to come because the risk of malaria no longer existed. One day we joined Gaetano Marzotto on his boat. It looked like a ferry, so much so that it was requisitioned by the Germans during the war. With Marzotto we were cousins and we found ourselves in front of Cala di Volpe. Then we moved to the Gulf of Cugnana and for the first time I saw the promontory on which Porto Rotondo would have risen ».
Was it then that he decided to invest in Sardinia?
“Actually, my brother and I had bought the Coluccia peninsula in Santa Teresa. Those were the years when my father had two cement factories in Sassari and Cagliari. The land was cheap and they sold it to us for 20 million lire. But the deal went wrong because we had a problem with the boat and we arrived a couple of days late to settle the payment. The owner had sold it to another, but he returned the 10 million we had given as an advance “.
When was interest in Porto Rotondo born?
“It was a few years later, because my brother and I liked the idea of creating something beautiful in Sardinia. In the early sixties Vittorio Cini, entrepreneur, politician and philanthropist, a great friend of my father, seeing what Aga Khan was doing with the Costa Smeralda, decided to buy all the land on which Porto Rotondo is today. The first investment was a hotel, the Abi d’Oru. But the year it opened was empty. It was at that point that he proposed that we take care of this part of Sardinia. An agreement was found and we took the land from the port to build a new Portofino in Sardinia: a square, a church and a marina ».
A dream come true.
«Yes, thanks to the beautiful project of this polis signed by Alessandro Pianon. At first they were just lots of villas, plus the Sporting, which more than a hotel, with just 10 rooms, was a yacht club. It was such a fascinating place that anyone who came fell in love with it and decided to take a home. Then we were lucky enough to know so many people … ».
A very long list of VIPs.
«Porto Rotondo made itself known thanks to a strong word of mouth among artists and entrepreneurs. We gave Ira Furstenberg the lot on which his villa was born, right next to the beach that now bears his name. The first to take home was Philippe Leroy, but then Virna Lisi, Monica Vitti, Antonioni, Gassman, Tognazzi, Villaggio, Gianni Morandi, Walter Chiari, Claudia Cardinale, Mogol, Shirley Bassey, Raquel Welch arrived. It was a crazy success, everyone gathered in Porto Rotondo in the summer. In Piazzetta San Marco like at Sporting ».
Which are the characters that most of all have marked the history of the village?
“I think of Carl Hahn (Mr. Volkswagen, ed), Aga Hruska, (the dentist of popes and kings, ed). To Umberto Agnelli, to Prince Ruspoli, to the Bulgari families, Barilla, to the unforgettable Marta Marzotto. And to Krizia, a great woman of culture who has done so much for Porto Rotondo ».
«He is a nice, intelligent, capable, creative man. I’m glad he’s back. But he lives Porto Rotondo inside his home. Inside the Charterhouse he also created his own theater. This fact has always displeased me a little, because he could give us a great hand “.
In over 50 years, what has your relationship been with politics?
“At first I found great support. Both Karim and I have dealt with forward-thinking mayors. The politicians of that time were more enlightened