On February 5, 1960, a film was released in Italian cinemas that would define a change that began seven years earlier with Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn's Roman Holidays. The scriptwriter of both films was Ennio Flaiano, a genius. After the international triumph of the work that inaugurated a decade of economic prosperity, Italy became a destination for millions of tourists, an avalanche that suggested to the writer one of his caustic comments: "look at them, they think they are us." The myth of made in Italy was born.
The anecdote is recalled by Alberto Arbasino, a friend of Flaiano's and author of the book that best describes those years of exuberance sublimated in La dolce vita: the film in question. His novel is called Fratelli d'Italia and it was published in 1963, a year after the prince of the Ismaili community, His Highness Karim Aga Khan IV, won over by the beauty of the north-eastern coast of Sardinia, bought the land of the municipalities from Olbia and Arzachena to found, out of nothing, what would become one of the hot spots of the international jet set: the Emerald Coast and, on it, Porto Cervo.
Today, despite the overcrowding and aspirational phenomena such as yacht-watching, or venues such as Flavio Briatore's Billionaire, where anyone can treat themselves to the nihilistic taste of uncorking three-zero bottles, this corner of the Mediterranean still maintains inaccessibility enclosures. Beyond Gallurese-style shops and resorts, the refuge of the true elite is the sea, aboard their yachts or in places like the Nikki Beach Club, a beach reachable only by boat, where signature cocktails, fresh fish and the Finest DJs perfect the vacation of tanned bodies wrapped in linen.
Let's go back to when it all began, more precisely to May 12, 1967. That day, says the plaque placed at the entrance, Prince Aga Khan and some partners founded the Costa Smeralda Yacht Club, one of the most prestigious in the world and part of that supranational circuit of luxury that also includes Saint-Tropez, Montecarlo, Mikonos or Eivissa. It is the sanctum sanctorum of exclusivity, being part of this social circle means belonging to a world that does not need to show itself to measure its status.
Here, in the Marina of Porto Cervo, on the night of San Juan, Leonardo Ferragamo received his 180 guests for the gala dinner of the shipowners, that is, the owners of the sailboats that participated in the Nations Trophy 2023, a competition Gentlemen's Biennial, which he himself created around his Nautor Swan shipyard.
The evening at the yacht club is a triumph of moccasins, sophisticated perfumes that cover up the aroma of Sardinian cistus, gentlemen required to wear ties and ladies in evening gowns. Except for a few eccentrics, elegance is spartan, functional, as befits those who marry the sea. A couple of outdoor furniture makers recently arrived from Marbella explain that this "a bit ordinary" tourism made them take refuge in the hotel.
When, after the monkfish and the chocolate mousse, the somewhat hagiographic video of the boss is shown, the participation of the Nautor family is sincere. Ferragamo presents the state of the art and takes stock of his 25 years at the helm of the company. "An anniversary is for looking ahead", applause and a tribute of sailor ties and handkerchiefs for all those present. The average age is not low, it is an expensive passion that takes time.
At the end of June, Porto Cervo is still not the favorite showcase of the I want and I can not, everything revolves around the regattas and the whims of the wind, although the mistral is almost always an accomplice. Twenty-eight national teams divided into three classes participate in the Nations Trophy. The rules are clear: professional sailors and even world champions can be part of the crew, but the helm belongs to the owner. It would be missing more, since the price of these arrows oscillates between one and twenty million euros for the new models.
Pedro Vaquer, a 58-year-old businessman from Mallorca who, at the helm of his Nadir, has won everything possible on this circuit, assures: “it's not a joke, these regattas are very competitive”. The starting atmosphere is effervescent: the swans, including the Cuordileone, skippered by Ferragamo himself, are objectively splendid; Waiting for the wind, they perform a group dance reminiscent of the horses of the Palio di Siena waiting for “la mossa”.
The press travels relaxed aboard two of the house's jewels: a magnificent Swan 54 sailboat and the Swan Shadow, the first motorboat produced by the shipyard in 2021. At the helm of this beam is Roy Capasso, company manager and former offshore world champion, a perfect Fellinian Marcello, holder, in addition, of the most spectacular moccasins sighted at the shipowners' dinner. In the emerald waters, between a Caprese and a pesto pasta served on deck, the tenders of the large yachts moored in Porto Cervo approach, with some of the beautiful couples of the sailors on board, with their straw hats.
Upon arrival, Piazza Azzurra de la Marina comes alive with music, buffets and Italian sparkling wines. Parents are heard talking about sails and hulls with very young children: passion for the sea, like heritage, is inherited. The sun falls between the villas hidden in the Mediterranean scrub, the Nautor family prepares to leave Sardinia. The jingle of the halyards on the masts has a hypnotic rhythm. The tourist season is about to start and “happiness is wanting what you have”, Flaiano would advise.