Some places are just magical and this is one of them. Overlooking the Atlantic and the city of Funchal in the Islands of Portugal, the Monte Palace and its Tropical Garden are a must-see. This is partly thanks to the original visionary of this little piece of paradise, the 18th century English Consul Charles Murray, who bought property up the hill in Funchal, which he called Quinta do Praza (The Pleasure Estate). At the end of the 19th century it was acquired by Alfredo Guilherme Rodrigues who built a house inspired by palaces he’d seen along the Rhine River.
This house became the Monte Palace Hotel and until Rodrigues’ death in the mid-20th century it was a favorite of international guests who came for the ambiance and the views. In 1987 another wealthy man bought Monte Palace, the Madeira-born self-made millionaire Joe Berardo. He donated the property to his foundation and then set about creating an incredible garden aimed at showcasing plants of the world and relocating 1000 year old olive trees threatened by the flooding of Alqueva Dam.
Berardo spent much of his life in South Africa and it was there he made his fortune through gold mining so much of the garden has an African theme as does the art exhibited in the three-floors of gallery. There is a collection of 2500 sculptures from Pretoria in South Africa as well as an extensive collection of stone sculpture from Zimbabwe. Given his success in mining, it’s no surprise that there is also an extensive exhibit based around precious metals of the world. But it’s outside that the real wonders exist: the Oriental Garden inspired by Joe Berardo’s visits to Asia, the huge lakes and floral displays, the Portuguese tiles which line many of the paths, and of course those views over Funchal. Many people have a vision, but it’s rare people like Joe Berardo who have the combination of vision, generosity to share it and the money to make the dream a reality. Quinta do Monte Palace Tropical Gardens are this rare dream.