I am pleased to introduce our travelers to a very important person who has made a great contribution to the tourism industry, both in Sardinia and Spain, but has never sought fame for his work. In fact, it was only by public acclamation that his name was given to a delightful place he created: Porto Rafael, in Palau, in front of the island of La Maddalena. Obviously we are talking about Rafael Neville Conte de Berlanga, a great artist with a lot of flair and passion for architecture.
He was born in Malaga, of a noble Spanish family and his father, Edgar Neville, was a writer, diplomat, film producer and close friend of Charly Chaplin and Picasso. Rafael’s first real estate development project was on the land of his grandmother, Doña Carlotta Alexandra, on the Costa del Sol in southern Spain. With his charisma, Rafael dragged the entire jet-set of that time into this village: Torremolinos, becoming the meeting point for all the celebrities of Europe. Then there was Marbella and finally, in 1958, Sardinia, even before Karim Aga Khan discovered it. The two knew each other because they met in various social gatherings, but Rafael could not compete with the financial resources of the Aga Khan. He thus created a small tourist settlement, but full of charm, with the help of a Sardinian lawyer: Paolo Riccardi.
The small village of Porto Rafael, 30 minutes by car from Porto Cervo, is worth a visit to see the delightful square by the sea, the small shops and the “Town Hall", which would have been Rafael’s home, overlooking the piazzetta, and every building and every painting is his work.
Subsequently, the Aga Khan called Paolo Riccardi in Costa Smeralda, appointing him General Secretary of the Costa Smeralda Consortium and President of all its 14 companies in Italy, including the airline at the time Alisarda and renamed Meridiana. Riccardi, a giant of man, for his stature and for his managerial skills, creator of much of the success of the Costa Smeralda, overcoming enormous and indescribable bureaucratic difficulties. His determined manner of him mixed with a unique affability, helped to make the Costa Smeralda take off and he remained in the Organization until 1982.
Riccardi joins his old friend Rafael in Gran Canaria, where he was trying to fulfill his last dream of him, Puerto de Mogan, which was then a small, charming, sleepy village without resources.
Rafael boldly plans development on the sea, stealing land from the deep Atlantic Ocean. With his dynamic partner, Riccardi, success was assured and the new Puerto de Mogan became a reality. The new village has retained the characteristic architecture of the existing old Spanish village and is a pleasure to see.
In winter Mogan welcomes many of the regulars of the Costa Smeralda and two restaurateurs have also opened a restaurant there, Sergio Volpi, with the “Clipper” and Susanne, with her “Rosemary’s”.
Rafael was also an artist who paints on canvas and uses various materials including glass and ceramics.
The Rafael party (August 21) has been for years the attraction of hundreds of people coming by all means, but especially by boats, from all over the coast. The celebration of his birthday took place in the Piazzetta in the midst of a colorful multitude of participants, who sang and danced accompanied with abundant libations that lasted until morning.
Rafael Neville was an interiorly rich man, who knew how to live his life to the full, appreciating its beauties and daily joys, overcoming moments of crisis with dignity.
As he knew how to live, he accepted the disease that weakened his body. In the last days he often repeated to those around him: “I have found peace". He deeply loved this land and it is common opinion that one of his greatest joys was the conferral of the Honorary Citizenship attributed to him by the Municipality of Palau on September 18, 1988.
Here he arrived after a dream, here he lived happy years by fully inserting himself in an environment that at the end of the 1950s could present many difficulties. He died on November 2, 1996, and rests in the Palau Cemetery.