Ibiza is more than just a party

A few weeks ago, I visited Ibiza for the first time, to evaluate the potential of a site for a boutique 5-star development.

The general image of Ibiza we have here in Europe is the one of a party island, where there is no limit to excess and the night never ends. The place where footballers and TV personalities migrate in the summer months.

The flight in seemed to confirm the stereotype; Champagne flowing at 7:30 a.m. and several groups already having stability problems while queueing at immigration.

Looking at the arrival board I noticed the staggering frequency of incoming flights: Ibiza has 7 million visitors per year – quite remarkable.

The charm of traditional Ibiza
The charm of traditional Ibiza

Before driving to my site, I visited a few trendy properties, and the numbers generated are huge: a 32-square-meter standard room, pretty but not great, sells easily at €1,000 (US$1170) per night; just decent suite rooms from €3,000 (US$3,400) and above with almost no limit. Villas are rented in the region of €20,000 (US$23,000) per week, with the best one at €50,000 (US$58,000) per week!

I had enough of glamour and obscene numbers, so I began to drive north to reach my site; what a relief, after five minutes, the road started to climb gently into verdant hills, a peaceful and serene landscape, dotted by small enchanted bays.

The wonderful entrance of Atzaro
The wonderful entrance of Atzaro

Along the way, I couldn’t think of a destination with more different aspects.

Making a deviation on a narrow internal road, I came across to a surprising property. The signage board was in French and defined the compound as “agritourisme.” Agritourism, quite popular, in Italy, France and Spain, is essentially a glorified farm that offers rustic accommodation and honest food.

Well, with typical French snobbism, this was in reality a super-refined retreat that happened to have manicured kitchen gardens and few animals discreetly hidden from the guests.

It’s called Atzaro, and it is worth it to stop at least for a meal. Only 24 rooms, wonderful gardens, great food and spa, an oasis in the middle of nowhere. No beach, no sea views, yet incredibly successful.

I’m always fascinated by these types of properties. I believe that for a designer, to be able to create so great a destination without having the support of the “wow” views is one the most demanding challenges.

Who needs the beach?
Who needs the beach?

On a different scale, Borgo Egnazia in Italy has been able to achieve similar results, despite being 3 miles away from the sea. Having visited both, the first question that comes to mind is always: Would I stay here for at least 3 days without feeling the urgency to go outside?

In both cases, the answer is yes, and this means the architect has been able to create a balanced, feel-good and inspiring environment.

In the meantime, the site I visited was outstanding and directly on the beach, so I definitely get an “easy” start on this project.