"I would give my weight in gold to have you here."
Those were his words to me just hours before I boarded my plane to Lisbon.
We were in New York when he received the dreadful news about his mother's passing in their family home, Quinta da Amizade. I wanted to be there for him but a mere four months of dating each other rendered him Lisbon-bound and me back to Santa Barbara with an ache in my heart.
I had been home but a few hours when prompted by his words, I secured a ticket on the next plane out of Los Angeles and less than twenty four hours later we were reunited in the house that saw my now-husband through adolescence in Sintra, Portugal.
While I never met Sara, I am grateful to have visited her home, Quinta da Amizade, while her presence was still very much alive. Through the captivating space she created and cherished with her sons, I felt as though I had met the stylishly avant-garde woman who chose to surround herself with things she loved.
With plans of turning it into a public space, the municipality of Sintra purchased Quinta da Amizade three years following Sara's death. Sadly, however, as a result of the city's failure to allocate the funds required to upkeep the property, Quinta da Amizade sat abandoned ever since.
It was important for Bernardo to see our young children on the same trails he blazed when he and his family relocated to Sintra from Rome in the late eighties. To that end, our family set out to pay the forlorn property a well deserved visit.
Luckily there was no need to tempt fate by breaking in, nor did we have to work our way through the thick cobwebs we envisioned having taken up residence there. Quite the contrary, we were delighted to discover that the structure and gardens were undergoing a huge renovation and that the foreman was more than happy to grant us passage to meander at will. We followed Bernardo's lead as he recounted the tales of his youth within the walls of Amizade and especially throughout its forest-like gardens.
The word quinta (country villa) derived its name from the word quinto or "fifth" because when rented out, its fee amounted to one fifth of its income.
Although it appears to have been built many centuries ago, Quinta da Amizade (also known as Villa Sassetti) was conceived in the late nineteenth century by Italian architect, Luigi Manini, for his friend, Italian hotelier, Victor Sassetti. The architect, who also designed the well known Quinta da Regaleira (pictured below,) was intent on emulating the ancient castles of his native Lombardy. I find it fascinating, fateful even, that like Luigi Manini and Victor Sassetti, Sara de Albergaria, the last owner of this villa, would have also been an Italian drawn to the natural beauty of Sintra.
So many memories lie behind those gates and I can’t help but wish that Sara could have partaken in the joy of her grandchildren frolicking in the place she adored. Yet I am comforted by the knowledge that soon this magnificent quinta will open its doors for all to savor, not least our children, who will have a story or two to pass along to their kin.