Proudly perched high above the Caribbean Sea and surrounded by lush tropical jungle vegetation, Altos de Chavon looks and feels like a 16th century Mediterranean village.
One that has been miraculously transported to the tropics. In reality, construction of the village only began in 1976 after American billionaire Charles Bluhdorn came up with the idea and funding for the project. Now it is the background setting of world-famous concerts and inspiring artists.
16th century setting for budding artists
Five years later, the village was proudly finalized as the main cultural center for Dominican people. Designed by Dominican architect Jose Antonio Caro, and created by Italian master designer and cinematographer Roberto Coppa, the village has something of a film set. Yet the fake 16th century village is far from being dusty and empty, as it hosts the most prestigious art school of the Dominican Republic, which opened its doors in 1983; another idea by billionaire and philanthropist Charles Bluhdorn. His vision was to have talented students study together regardless of their financial background. Today, the country’s poorest and richest students live together here in the onsite students’ residential halls and are taught the fine arts at La Escuela de Diseño, an affiliate of Parsons School of Design in New York City. Though the school has proven that equal education can yield talented artists regardless of social class, it unfortunately remains an exception in a nation plagued by unequal access to education.
The making of…
While building the 16th century setting, Dominican artisans handcrafted the stone pathways, decorative ironwork, furniture and enchanting buildings, reviving almost forgotten crafts of metal work and stone carving. Under Coppa´s direction, each stone was hand cut, each wooden door frame was handcrafted and each wrought-iron detail hand-forged.
Weddings and concerts
The picturesque St. Stanislaus Church together with its plaza and sparkling fountain are a much sought-after wedding venue, and the huge Roman 5,000 seat amphitheater has been the scene of countless internationally acclaimed performances, including Frank Sinatra who sang at the inauguration of the open air theater. Latin performer Enrique Iglesias will be next to play within this extraordinary setting on 7 November.
Food and art of all ages
Narrow, cobble-stone alleyways lead to way to a number of good Mediterranean-style restaurants, as well as numerous quaint shops featuring the diverse craftwork of local artisans. Three galleries showcase the talents of students from the on-site design school.
Located a bit further down the street, you’ll find the archeological museum, which harbors a magnificent collection of indigenous objects, ranging from utilitarian to art, and testifying to the rich cultural evolution that slowly developed starting with the island’s indigenous societies from the pre-agricultural era until the time of the Taino Indians.
Read more about the Taino Indians here.
Tour of Casa de Campo
When visiting Altos de Chavon you might as well go for a tour of the most luxurious resort of the Dominican Republic: Casa de Campo. Visitors are allowed to visit the impressive marina as well as its renowned restaurants. Pubbelly Sushi, the Asian-inspired Miami Beach staple, has announced that it will be opening a location in Casa de Campo in November.
Dominican residents, tourists and working artists, flock to this magically inspirational locale.
Located inside the prestigious Casa de Campo, visitors can visit the village as well as other parts of Casa de Campo including its beautiful port.
Photos by Magda Lazinska