Uncovering Italy’s Superlatives in people, places and things

All aboardISSIMO with the Santander of Wight

Italian summer wanderlust

Picture this: a vintage sailboat sets across the jewel-tone blue Mediterranean sea, occasionally backdropped by coloured fishing villages. Chatting voices overlay the hook of Tu vuo’ far l’Americano. Practically a scene straight out of The Talented Mr. Ripley, there is nothing more quintessentially estate italiana (Italian summer) than a long weekend on a sailboat, whether Amalfi Coast,  the Aeolian islands, or the Argentario.

A historic sailboat

In 1999, Anthony Minghella catapulted us back to 1950s Italy in his adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s book. With Ischia as the fictitious resort Mongibello, we sailed with Dickie (Jude Law), Tom (Matt Damon) and Marge (Gwyneth Paltrow) around southern Italy on Bird, a gorgeous 42-foot sailboat and got lost in pure wanderlust inspiration.

Bird wasn’t just any sailboat made for a movie.  It was one of the world’s fastest and the most modern for its time – the Santander of Wight. Naval architect Philip Rhodes designed the sloop in 1957 for British actor Richard Greene,  who brought to life everyone’s favourite outlaw in the 1955-59 television series The Adventures of Robin Hood, as well as a slew of iconic films including in The Little Princess and The Hound of the Baskervilles. Sold after only a year to navigator Mary Blewitt, top ocean racing navigator as well as secretary of the historic Royal Ocean Racing Club.

In 1964, the Bianchi Bandinelli family purchased the gorgeous sloop when Alessandro Bianchi Bandinelli was just one year old and has remained with the Bianchi Bandinelli ever since.

“It’s very special that a boat has remained with the same family for more than 50 years. It’s very rare.  These are pezzi di cuori, pieces of the heart,” says Alessandro. 

Like his father and fathers before him, Alessandro spent a few years in the Italian Navy, but has spent most of life on the Santander and is extraordinarily passionate, maintaining the boat to its original design and colour. In fact, Alessandro is hands on at  Italy’s famed Cantiere Navale dell’Argentario in Porto Stefano maintaining its upkeep from minor to major restorations and re-fittings.

How did the Santander come to be Bird?  “That’s a funny story”, tells Alessandro, who shares that the film’s local director was looking for a boat from 1957, and coincidentally the director’s father was in the navy with Alessandro’s father. “A little bit of Italian math”, he laughs and reminds the Santander solidified Dickie as extraordinarily privileged and wealthy. “Dickie’s boat is literally the most modern boat of his age.”

Off screen, the Santander also was home to Jude Law for two days, with Alessandro giving him full immersion sailing lessons while exploring all of Ischia. 

The Santander of Wight.

Papal Pedigree

Not only does the Santander of Wight have a flash pedigree, the Bianchi Bandinellis themselves have been in the history books for nearly a millennium. The aristocratic family claims popes and partisans. In 1159, Rolando Bandinelli ruled the papal states as Pope Alexander III.  In 1527, Girolamo Bandinelli was given Villa di Geggiano (near Siena) as a dowry gift, and by 1725, the estate was producing and exporting wine.  (The estate was the setting for Bernardo Bertolucci’s Stealing Beauty). Modern history was literally written by Alessandro’s grandfather Ranuccio Bianchi Bandinelli, a world renowned art historian and archaeologist. 

ISSIMO X Rivolta Carmignani terrycloth pillows aboard the Santander of Wight.

Be like Dickie and enjoy languid days in the ocean sway wherever you are, whether the sun-drenched playgrounds of Il Pellicano and Mezzatorre, or at home.  And to keep you in the Pellicano vibe, we’ve set up a summer of stripes that can take you for any occasion.

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