Walking the cobblestone streets and narrow alleys of Altos de Chavón with their overhanging balconies and stone walls, it is not hard to imagine that you are in 16th century Europe. And you could be forgiven for thinking that the next passerby might speak to you in Italian or some antiquated dialect of old Spain.
The quaint, hilltop village is four miles from the main lobby of Casa de Campo, reached by a road that winds through the manicured lawns of the houses and golf courses that make up the resort. Whether you arrive by golf cart, car or shuttle, once you step foot in the parking lot, you enter another world.
Dominican architect José Antonio Caro and Italian designer Roberto Coppa designed the village, which boasts several dining destinations. One favorite (and one of the oldest venues there) is La Piazzetta, which serves up good and honest Italian fare. You can sit along a stone wall looking out over the Chavón River, more than 300 feet below. Other options include Onno’s, which prepares food with a Spanish touch, and Café Marietta, serving light Italian food. It’s worth checking with the hotel concierge because there is turnover in the area restaurants year to year, and there may be new additions to the lineup. A cigar shop called Cabinet is open daily from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. and offers an outdoor smoking area to enjoy your purchases.
Art galleries showcase the works of students from the local school and a small archeological museum is filled with pre-Colombian artifacts discovered during the construction of the resort. A 5,000-seat amphitheater is an authentic reconstruction from ancient Rome. It has hosted such outstanding performers as Frank Sinatra, Santana, Julio Iglesias, Gloria Estefan, Andrea Bocelli and Plácido Domingo.
Whether you are looking for a wonderful meal in a rustic setting, or just want to pass the time exploring all the nooks and crannies of the hilltop village, it’s definitely worth the trip. Stop for a minute in the main square, in front of the St. Stanislaus church, light up a cigar and lean against the stone wall, with a view straight down to the Chavón River. It is a unique setting in one of the world’s great resorts.