After a lovely breakfast we trekked off towards Pablo Neruda’s house La Sebastiana. In 1959 Pablo asked friends to help him find a home. He wrote: “I feel the tiredness of Santiago. I want to find in Valparaiso a little house to live and write quietly. It must have some conditions. It can’t be located too high or too low. It should be solitary but not in excess. With neighbours hopefully invisible. They shouldn’t be seen or heard. Original, but not uncomfortable. With many wings, but strong. Neither too big or too small. Far from everything but close to the transportation. Independent, but close to the commerce. Besides it has to be very cheap. Do you think I would find a house like that in Valparaiso? ”
The walk from hotel to La Sebastiana was uphill but we barely noticed the climb as there was plenty to look at as we went……….
Neruda’s friends found a house on Florida Hill and many decades later we rounded a corner and saw it sitting up high – that’s Pablo’s house jutting out on the top left. It was built by Spaniard Sebastian Collado who assigned the entire third floor as a bird cage! Sebastian died in 1949 without completing the house and it was abandoned for many years. It was basically a house full stairs and Neruda thought it was too big for just himself so he bought it together with sculptor Marie Martner & her husband Dr. Francisco Velasco. They lived in the basement and two lower floors while Neruda lived on the 3rd & 4th floors & the tower. Neruda used to joke: “I lose; I bought just stairs and terraces”. He did get a magnificent view though!
Neruda took 3 years to finish the construction and interior design of his section and he “inaugurated” it with a lavish party on September 18th 1961. For the occasion Neruda wrote the poem “La Sebastiana” – I establish the house/I made it first of air/ then I raised the flag in the air/ and I left it hanged/for the open air, from the star, from/ the light and from the darkness.
La Sebastiana was looted after the military coup of 1973 and not restored until 1991 when Telefonica de Espana made it possible along with funding the purchase for the lower part of the house. In December 1991 the house was reopened as a museum with a collection of Neruda’s personal items from other houses, (he owned 3 in Chile) including a collection of old maps, paintings, antiquities from the port and curio pieces like music boxes and an old merry-go-round horse carved in wood.
We were not allowed to take photos inside the house but were told we could take photos out the windows. Attendants wandered the floors to ensure we complied.
After winding our way through the house which really was amazing, we bought cold drinks and bottles of water from the cafe before heading off towards the port where we were going to have lunch.