An Ishmaelite Prince arrived, by chance, from the sea, at the natural fjord of Porto Cervo and was bewitched by what he saw. It was the end of the 1960s: it was love at first sight between Karim Aga Khan IV, Arab prince and Muslim imam, and a stretch of the wild and beautiful Sardinia, a rough diamond enshrouded in the fragrances of the Mediterranean scrub as it moves down from the mountains towards the sea and frames the enchanting beaches. His favourite beach became the Spiaggia del Principe (Prince's beach), a stretch of white sand surrounded by breathtaking scenery, behind a deep cove protected by a pink granite promontory. Exclusive for its beauty, but open to all: in just a few minutes on foot, you reach the green, pink, turquoise and blue heart of the Costa Smeralda, the new name that the Prince gave to this part of Gallura.
After his arrival, architects and artists ‘created’ the style of the Costa Smeralda, drawing inspiration from the small Sardinian villages, from the stazzi (rural constructions), from the pinnettos (sheepfolds) of the shepherds and even from the Nuraghi and from the domus de Janas (pre-Nuragic tombs). They captured the perfect harmony between the dignified simplicity of the archaic, traditional buildings and the wild nature surrounding them. They observed the absence of rigid lines, the walls that are not at right angles, the irregular pillars, the dry stone and the use of natural materials: beams made of juniper logs, lofts made from woven reeds, plaster mixed with ground granite and coloured with natural pigments.
A fairy-tale resort and houses camouflaged in the Mediterranean scrub and between the rocks. The architecture of the Costa Smeralda elaborates local culture and decorates using the colours of traditional costumes and the designs of the fabrics. The brilliant architects, along with the Sardinian iron, wood and stone artisans, gave body and life to a simple and refined style: they did not violate the solitary, silent nature, but respected it and reciprocated by offering works for all to enjoy, like the Church of Stella Maris, overlooking the old harbour of Porto Cervo.
The bond between Sardinia and the Prince's great architects did not come to an end: many of them never left, choosing to live here. Many of them paid homage to it with other masterpieces like a convent built for the Carmelite nuns who had lost their home; the great surrealist architect, Savin Couelle, touched by the earnest plea of the enclosed-community nuns, offered them his project for the new building constructed on a hill with a view over Nuoro. Defined the “wonderful miracle of the Divine Providence”, it is a place of contemplation, prayer and chants that can be heard in the distance.