What is it about the Tuscan hill town that holds such incredible architectural and social appeal? It can’t be the Seinfeld references alone, can it? My wife and I once spent a lovely week between Aix-en-Provence and Avignon, where one French resort, Pont Royal, featured one such village in miniature — one would have thought the French would not deign to pay their noisy neighbors this sort of homage.
And then there are the many sprawling golf clubhouses that have, of late, taken on this popular design theme: I’m thinking of The Bridges GC near San Diego and whole bevy in Florida, China even. The Italians don’t fancy their golf in any great numbers. But something about this tableau has really hit home with golf developers.
I can’t prove it, but Casa de Campo may have started this trend. Altos de Chavon doesn’t just sit high on the cliffs above Rio Chavon (right next to the Dye Fore 18). It fairly well hangs out over those cliffs, and its lofty perch is but a detail. This is something of an architectural marvel, an entire Tuscan hill town designed by Dominican architect Jose Antonio Caro and created by Italian master designer and cinematographer Roberto Coppa. Local artisans handcrafted the cobblestone pathways, decorative ironwork, furniture and buildings using the volcanic rock and coral displaced by construction of the resort. The village began to take shape in 1976. Frank Sinatra christened altos De Chavon in 1982 with a concert at the amphitheater.
Last night we sampled the considerable atmosphere high above the river (where several scenes from “Apocalypse Now” were shot), and it’s somethin’, boy. After a sumptuous meal at one of the many restaurants in the village, La Piazzetta, we wandered around and through the narrow streets and piazzas, stopping in at a local bar or two (just to make sure they weren’t some Disney-inspired prop), and taking in the incredible views up and down the Rio Chavon basin.
I can attest that it’s all real, not some whimsical creation of the resort. Apparently the place is overrun by tourists and wedding parties during the day; the chapel there, St. Stanislaus Church, is the nuptial venue of choice for women across the DR. There are boutiques, museums and galleries. After night falls, the locals come out and make it more inviting still.