If you knew only a little bit about Georgina Brandolini d’Adda, the Parisian countess who has been a fixture in fashion’s most glamorous circles for the past few decades, you probably wouldn’t go looking for her in a Brazilian mangrove swamp, in a house off a long dirt road (or “dirty road,” in the words of a local man who gives me directions), where teenagers zip around on motorbikes, dodging muddy ditches and stray dogs.
But to those who know Georgina well, the fact that she has a vacation home just outside Trancoso, a laid-back village on Brazil’s Bahian coast, makes perfect sense. Georgina, who was born in Rio de Janeiro, is recognized for a certain kind of stylish simplicity, as is Trancoso itself. Besides, as you approach her property, which is on the beach a few minutes from town, you realize that life here hardly rates as Outward Bound. Past the thatched-roof gatehouse, a driveway leads through a bamboo thicket to a breezy compound shaded by coconut palms, where Georgina, fresh from a swim in the 25-meter pool, emerges in a bathing suit and pink kanga wrap. At lunchtime, her houseguests saunter in from the beach and sit for a languorous meal on the patio, trading pan-lingual barbs over caipirinhas and stuffed crab.
Nodding to the security guard stationed at the seaside gate, Georgina explains that he’s not there to fend off criminals. “Trancoso isn’t like Rio—it’s not dangerous,” she says. “He’s there because sometimes people on the beach think my house is a hotel, so they try to come in and have a shower.”
During the past few years, Trancoso has made its name as one of the so-called hippie-chic hot spots, those 21st-century answers to Goa or Bali that are luring in-the-know jetsetters. Many such places never manage to get either the “hippie” or the “chic” part quite right, but Trancoso scores high on both counts. Founded in 1586 by Portuguese missionaries, who built a quaint Catholic church and then moved on, the town remained contentedly off the grid until about 1970, when a small group of biribandos—young counterculture types fleeing Brazil’s urban jungles for the real thing—showed up. Settling into the empty fishermen’s houses around the grass-covered Quadrado, a five-acre town square that overlooks the ocean, the biribandos mixed with local families in a barter-based collective, living off the land and the ocean. It was only in 1982 that electricity arrived, and not until almost two decades later that the latest wave of outsiders—fashionable São Paulo weekenders—rolled into town. Although the influx seemed likely to swallow the village whole, Trancoso has so far retained its unique brand of mellow charm, striking an ideal balance between the scruffy and the superfabulous.