Is Costa Smeralda still that glorious dolce vita empire?

The Emerald Coast is at a turning point. It needs to become more sustainable and regain its authenticity in order to resist the ever-increasing competition from other regions of southern Italy.

Elena Cozza

By Elena Cozza28 septembre 2021

Today Qatar Holding is the main investor in Costa Smeralda. More than $120 million over five years is being invested by the holding company to upgrade the assets (Shutterstock)

$ 120 M

Qatar Holding's investments over 5 years on the Costa Smeralda

€ 6,971

The average value per square metre of residential property

€ 2,350

The price per day to moor your yacht in the port of Porto Cervo

October is approaching and the summer fling of 2021 ends in a bittersweet tone. The maze of yacht enthusiasts and free souls suddenly went from having aperitivo at Phi Beach in Porto Cervo to going back to their 9 am coffee break, starting the day behind their computers whilst dreaming about their next holiday in Costa Smeralda. Costa Smeralda, also called Emerald Coast, is the Sardinian northeastern coast that owes the name to the beautiful tint of the sea and the chromatic features of its crystalline waters. On a historical note, Prince Karim Aga Khan IV was bewitched by the northern coast of Sardinia in the early 1960s and shaped it to become the most exclusive and inaccessible destination in Costa Smeralda that vips and celebrities are enchanted by.

Who are the new "princes" of Porto Cervo?

Porto Cervo remains a popular destination for the wealthy (Shutterstock)

Smeralda Holding can be considered the main investor of Costa Smeralda. It is in fact a shareholder company owned by Qatar Holding, operative of QIA (Qatar Investment Authority) one of largest funds thanks to its $295 billion investment capacity. The company has taken up Aga Khan’s legacy in 2012, by pursuing ambitious goals in collaboration with the local authorities, it is the owner of the most exclusive luxury properties in Porto Cervo, among them there are the iconic hotels Romazzino, Hotel Pitrizza, Cervo Hotel, Hotel Cala di Volpe, the Marina di Porto Cervo, Porto Cervo Shipyard and the Pevero Golf Club, that made a €30 million revenue in 2020, considering that they were open for only 30 days during summer 2020. In June 2021, Mario Ferraro, CEO at Smeralda Holding confirmed an investment of €120 million aimed to requalifying the assets and raising the quality of the Costa Smeralda experience.

It costs 2350 euros per day to moor your yacht in the port of Porto Cervo (Shutterstock)

The commitment towards the magic of Costa Smeralda is harmonized by the connections that can be made, or found, in the remote coast. The clientele of Porto Cervo goes from megacitiers, to rich upstarters and fashionistas. The most committed to the luxury dolce vita are Russian customers, followed by the boost of American customers after the pandemic. The harbour is an elite playground for billionaires, willing to pay around €2,350 daily to moor their yacht to the iconic Porto Cervo harbour. In August 2021, an average of €6,971 per square meter was requested for residential properties for sale, seeing an increase of 2.21% compare to May 2021 (6,820 €/ m²).

Local brands such as the fashion label La Revêche capitalise on Sardinian authenticity (DR)

Porto Cervo habituè can be easily spotted sunbathing on their mega yachts wearing the iconic and trendy swimming suits by the Sardinian luxury brand, La Revêche, that has been featured in the main fashion magazines for its elegant and flowery essence. La Revêche was born in 2016 by Sardinian designer Sara Melis, who was motivated by the need to represent the world in which she was immersed. Lunging, daring necklines, sophisticated lines, floral applications and seasonless garments are at the core of Sardinian brand now a cult among the It-girls of the moment, such as Valentina Ferragni, Sara Sampaio, Tina Kunakey and Ola Nowak. “Instagram was for our brand a real turning point, states Giulia Martinenghi, La revêche Press Coordinator. The petal-embellished swimsuits quickly gained fame and more and more celebrities started wearing and appreciating the brand, allowing it to become an Instagram sensation”.

The urgent need to become more sustainable

But social media are a double-edge sword, one moment it can be hot, another moment, “not”. Porto Cervo has been suffering heavy criticism, pushing locals to consider that it was not representative of the real “Sardinia”, known for its wilderness and humble nature. Sustainability issues and the safeguard of the environment are now topic that are becoming more relevant than ever, and it must be considered how long the consumerism, polluting trend of Porto Cervo will last. Souther Italian regions such as Puglia or Campania might be taking the place of the Sardinian coast, adding value to their land through innovative and sustainable practices.

The restaurant La Terrazza, opened by the Paddeu brothers, is a Mecca of local gastronomy (DR)

In this regard, a small Bottega in Porto Cervo had a stroke of luck exploiting the competitive advantage of being the only business in the area to offer genuine and high-quality Sardinian products, respecting the environment. Frades (“brothers” in Sardinian) was born by an idea of three brothers, Fabio, Roberto and Valerio Paddeu, that decided to open a small bottega to fill the need for authentic regional delicatessens in Costa Smeralda. Genuineness, premium products and a glocal approach were shown to be key success factors for Frades, which quickly became a great example of Sardinian hospitality, opening the first restaurant in Porto Cervo, called “La Terrazza”. It soon became a must to dine in for the Costa Smeralda devotees.

We offer a “relaxed luxury” experience, in which our guests are wrapped up in our region’s excellence

Michela Peru, Marketing Manager and Event Coordinator of Frades

Michela Peru, Marketing Manager and Event Coordinator of Frades comments: “Frades was born to give value and promote Sardinian food and wine heritage. Staying genuine and authentic to our regional roots are what makes Frades uniquely “luxurious”. We prefer to call our clients “guests”, cause we firmly believe on creating a connection that embraces Sardinian hospitality. We are proud of having an international clientele, yet a Sardinian one, proving that our restaurant stays true to its origins. We offer a “relaxed luxury” experience, in which our guests are wrapped up in our region’s excellence and we always aspire to give a surprise-effect through tailor-made experiences, such as catering in private yachts, events and private chef experiences. By being originally from Sardinia, Frades’ key strength is authenticity, we are genuine, and we worship our motherland, supporting the local economy.” Frades has now opened a restaurant in Milan, near Duomo, that stays true to its origins.

Surrounded by translucent water, Porto Cervo is now becoming a status symbol for the slow existing note of the sweet life. White sand, crystalline beaches, indigenous aesthetics are the essence of the Sardinian dolce vita, which has been conquering philocalists (aka beauty lovers) from all over the world. That same glimpse that forced Aga Khan to squint his eyes at the sight of the burning Sardinian sun.

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