Saturday, July 20: This morning I have another leisurely breakfast in Cafe Piela’s, where I take a picture of Manuel and Leonor, the owners of the Hospedaria. I also catch a man having his cup of coffee standing at the glass pastry case.
Then I take a different Scotturb bus to Quinta da Regaleira, an estate located near Sintra-Vila and classified as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO within the “Cultural Landscape of Sintra.” It has a Romantic palace and chapel, and a luxurious park featuring lakes, grottoes, wells, benches, towers, fountains, and sculptures. The palace is also known as “Palace of Monteiro the Millionaire”, from the nickname of its first owner, António Augusto Carvalho Monteiro.
Quinta da Regaleira was the summer residence of the Carvalho Monteiro family built in the neo-Manueline style.
The Chapel was also built in the Manueline style. Its icons revolve around scenes from the Life of Mary and the Life of Christ. There are also symbols from the Templar Order and its successor in Portugal, the Order of Christ. The crypt has a subterranean passage that links it with the Main House.
The celebrated capitalist Carvalho Monteiro was of Portuguese descent but was born in Rio de Janeiro, at a time when Brazil was governed by an Emperor. He graduated in law from the University of Coimbra, was a distinguished bibliophile, collector and philanthropist. With his scientific and cultured mind, he determined the mysterious iconographical program for Regaleira, his residence in Sintra.
The Quinta da Regaleira was the last commission in Portugal of Italian architect Luigi Manini. He devoted 14 years of his life to the palace, until he returned to Italy in 1912.
Inside the Main House is the Hunting Room, which is really a dining room. It is overwhelmed by the massive fireplace that supports the statue of a woodsman. The mantelpiece depicts wonderfully carved hunting scenes. The theme of the “cycle of life” is evident throughout the room from the Venetian mosaic floor to the ceiling carvings.
I climb up to the Panoramic Terrace, surrounded by eight profusely decorated finials featuring naturalistic and fantastic figures. From here I can see a sweeping view of the extensive gardens.
Outside the house, I follow the long winding paths through the gardens. The garden is designed as an image of the Cosmos, revealed through a series of magic and mysterious places. References to mythology abound: Olympus, Virgil, Dante, Milton and Camoes. Leda’s Grotto is one of the first places I encounter.
I climb up a narrow circular staircase to Regaleira Tower, where I can see a view of Sintra-Vila.
Near the Lake of the Waterfall, I find the Portal of the Guardians, a dramatic structure with twin towers flanking a central pavilion. Under the central pavilion is one of the entrance ways to the Initiatic Well, a “subterranean tower” that sinks some 27 meters into the earth, made accessible by a monumental spiral stairway. It is symbolic of the connection between Heaven and Earth. Since I don’t like closed dark spaces, I don’t go inside here!
These gardens go on forever! It takes me a long while, but I finally make it down to the Labyrinthic Grotto, which is very peaceful and lovely, though the photos don’t do it justice.
At the bottom of the hill, I come to the Promenade of the Gods, an avenue that links the Pisoes Loggia to the Main House, with statues of classical gods: Fortune, Orpheus, Venus, Flora, Ceres, Pan, Dionysus, Volcan and Hermes.
It’s taken me about two-three hours to make my way through Quinta da Regaleira, and it’s been truly lovely and peaceful. Besides that, the weather continues to be perfect in Sintra.
I leave the palace and wait outside about a half hour for the next Scotturb bus to Monserrate Palace. While waiting I have a long conversation with an English-speaking taxi driver who tells me that when I go to Lisbon, I should take a taxi door-to-door instead of hauling my suitcase on the train. He tells me it will only cost 25 euros or so. Hmmm. Now he’s put a bug in my ear, and I may have to consider that tomorrow when I leave for Lisbon. 🙂