Revisiting the Magic at Altos de Chavon

The first time I can remember visiting Los Altos de Chavon was the summer before 5th grade. I was so completely enchanted by the cobblestone streets, the massive amphitheater, and the breathtaking views of the Chavon River below that I swore up and down that one day, I would get married here. Granted, at the time of the exclamation my marital fixation was Ron Weasley – a fictional character from the Harry Potter books – but the point is that even then I found this place to be incredibly, incredibly romantic.

So you can imagine how my expectations were set for our afternoon visit to the magical village set above the hills of the Casa de Campo resort in La Romana. Was I disappointed?

The river Chavon, from Altos de Chavon
The river Chavon, from Altos de Chavon

Not quite.

What I didn’t know during my first visit to Altos de Chavon was that the 16th century village was actually a reconstruction completed in 1982. I have to admit, that took away a bit of the magic for me.

But if you view this attraction for what it is – not a romantic historic river-side settlement but actually an impressive artist’s colony – then some of the magic begins to creep back.

A cobblestones street
A cobblestones street.

Built through the 70s and inaugurated with a concert given at the amphitheater by Frank Sinatra, Altos de Chavon finds its authenticity not in its founding date, but in its founders. A labor of love, it was designed by a Dominican architect then brought to life by the Italian cinematographer Roberto Coppa. The finished effect is a bit movie-like, minus the cardboard cut-outs.

The amphitheater where Sinatra once performed
The amphitheater where Sinatra once performed

In fact, it’s about as far away from cardboard cut-outs as you could possibly get. Every stone and piece of ironwork in the village was handcrafted by a Dominican artisan. So it’s fitting that today the village is home to several renowned art galleries, as well the Altos de Chavon School of Design – an affiliate of Parsons School of Design in New York City.

A & I overlooking the Chavon River
A & I overlooking the Chavon River

So then I guess there’s only one question left: Will I still get married at Altos de Chavon?

…Well, not on this trip.

The church of my childhood dreams
The church of my childhood dreams

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