“Lo! Cintra’s glorious Eden intervenes in variegated maze of mount and glen.” – Lord Byron
Sintra was once the summer residence of Portuguese royalty and aristocracy. It is an immensely picturesque town with its colorful palaces, tilled walls, lush gardens and small shops.
Before the Portuguese Royal family, the Roman were here and later came the Moors. The Moors were so enamored by its plush beauty that they built a palace and many fountains.
Sintra Railway Station
This is the last stop for the train from Rossio station in Lisbon, a ride of about 45 minutes. It is quaint but a busy station with tourist filled train coming every 20mins or so.
The first stop we made after the train station was the historic Piriquita Bakery, founded in 1862!
Piriquita is a simple, unpretentious bakery with a great spread of local pastries. The much recommended Travesseiro lived up to its expectation. Also known as the pillow cake, it is a puff pastry with a filling made of almond, sugar and eggs. It was warm, flaky, sweet and buttery, just what you need to start a good day. Another favorite from the bakery are the Quejadas, crispy pie filled with cheese.
With our tummies nicely stuffed, we decided to walk to Quinta da Regaleira. And what a beautiful (uphill) walk it was! Making many a stops to click pictures of statues, houses and fountains it took us about 20 minutes to reach our destination.
Tip: Wear comfortable shoes, like Lisbon this town is best explored on foot.
Also known as The Palace of Monteiro the Millionaire, this is one quirky and magical place. We had not expected that we would spend much of our morning exploring this estate with Gothic, Moorish, Egyptian and Renaissance features.
This wonderland gave us Lewis Carroll vibes with caves, gardens, wells, statues, ponds, towers, grottos and underground caves.
It was built between 1904 and 1910, in the last days of the Portuguese monarchy. It formerly belonged to the Viscondessa da Regaleira and was later bought and renovated by António Augusto Carvalho Monteiro. His vast fortune earned him the nickname of Monteiro dos Milhões, (Moneybags Monteiro). He commissioned this unique project of house and landscape from the Italian set-designer and architect Luigi Manini (1848-1936) whose genius, along with the mastery of sculptors, stonemasons, craftsmen created this magical place.
Chapel of the Holy Trinity, Quinta da Regaleira
The Initiation Wells
The wells are the most popular and fascinating features of this estate. With no brochures or signs, one could easily miss the entrance. But that’s the charm of this place, you are never lost cause you find something else that’s spectacular.
The main well is 27m deep. It resembles an inverted tower with spiral staircase. It has nine platforms, which are said to be “reminiscent of the Divine Comedy by Dante and the nine circles of Hell, the nine sections of Purgatory and the nine skies which constitute Paradise.”
At the bottom of the main well is a compass over a Knights Templar cross. Little is known about how the wells were used, but one thing that is clear is that a lot of planning went about in constructing it.
There is a second smaller well, called the unfinished Well, which is believed to have been built using Masonic principles.
Tunnels from the bottom of the well lead to other locations such as the Portal of the Guardians, the Cascade Lake, the Imperfect and the Pit Cave.
Portal of the Guardians
The Portal of the Guardians is the central pavilion of the Quinta. The fountain at the Portal may be hiding one of the tunnels to the Initiation well.
They also took the lead in exploring, I tried to catch up but was clearly out of breath! This place was like a giant playground for the boys, they climbed on every tower, explored every single path and hid in the caves.
The Regaleira Palace
The palace though beautiful is no match to its outdoors. The rooms are sparse with hardly any decorations. However some excellent outdoor views can be had from many of these rooms. Few of the rooms have wood paneled ceiling with intricate carving on them.
We fell in love with Quinta da Regaleira, so much so that we spent way more time there than expected. The only drawback of taking this long here was that we had to amend our plans and cut down a few places from our itinerary. But this also meant that we will be going back to Sintra again, soon.
My next post will have details of our visit to Monserrate Palace and Pena Palace in Sintra.