The village of Deia in Mallorca is tiny. It’s not more than a scattering of houses surrounding a hill with a church on top.
But this little gem in the Balearic Islands – situated where the foothills of the Serra de Tramuntana drop down to the sea – punches far above its weight as a glamorous holiday destination.
Yes it is old and charming and has a gorgeous wee beach. But why has Deia become famous for attracting such a solar system of literary and musical stars over the years?
From writer Robert Graves to Anais Nin, with DH Lawrence, Jules Verne and Frédéric Chopin stopping by, and more latterly Mick Jagger and Richard Branson, the village has seen some famous names drinking at the local bar Sa Fonda over the past 100 years.
Hotel de la Residencia is where they stay (if they haven’t bought their own villa in Deia) and you can visit the hotel’s excellent Tafona Gallery to see exhibitions by international and Spanish artists even if you can’t afford a room.
Robert Graves was the pioneer expat to take up residence in Deia. The poet and novelist (think ‘I Claudius’) visited before the First World War and came back in the post-war years. He used the town as a setting for some of his fiction and lived here until his death in 1985. His house is a museum where you can see photographs of famous visitors to the charismatic literary household, including Alec Guiness, Peter Ustinov, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Kingsley Amis and Ava Gardner.
This is my favourite Robert Graves quote: “I believe that every English poet should read the English classics, master the rules of grammar before he attempts to bend or break them, travel abroad, experience the horror of sordid passion and – if he is lucky enough – know the love of an honest woman.”
I’m not sure that Anais Nin would agree but the American writer took a house in the lower part of the village (called the Clot) in the 1920s and set one of her stories here. In the story a fisherman’s daughter has her first erotic experience with a young foreign couple on the beach. Nin used to ride a mule from her house down to the cove. Other literary residents include Uruguaan novelist Cristina Peri Rossi and Nicaraguan poet and novelist Claribel Alegria.
The 1980s saw a string of rock and roll stars enjoying the unique charms of Deia. Richard Branson has a house here and invites Virgin Records stars to visit. Mick Jagger, Mark Knopfler and Mike Oldfield have all been known to play at Sa Fonda. Caroline Corr and Fionn Regan have also been inspired by time spent in Deia.
The single road winds up and up the hill to the church at the summit, where you will find the tombstone of Robert Graves in the cemetery behind the church.
If you have been reading this blog for a while you probably know that I love a good graveyard, in fact I am a confirmed ‘taphophile’. Surrounding the hilltop the terraces of olive and orange tree orchards rise steeply and the sea sparkles aquamarine in the bay. Graves certainly picked a wonderful setting in which to rest.
Finally, walk down to the Cala Deia, a very beautiful (and rugged) small shingle beach with clear waters and rock pools. A small shack-like restaurant serves fresh fish and cold beer. Altogether this tiny village is the perfect place for contemplation. Maybe that’s why the stars couldn’t resist. Don’t miss Deia when you visit Mallorca.
By Natasha von Geldern