La Chascona: Poem and Property

Legendary poet Pablo Neruda found a home amid “water that runs writing in a language of its own” and bushes “with… bloodthirsty branches.” Wipe your feet on the welcome mat of La Chascona, a cheery blue house in Chile. This must-see on a Santiago holiday is a gift to Neruda’s third wife, Matilde Urrutia, for whom the place was named.

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“La Chascona” translates to “The Uncombed,” referring to Matilde’s curly locks. Steep stairs lead to the celebrated couple’s love-nest, and one can see the garden Matilde looked after for years. La Chascona is made up of a living room, bedroom, bar, kitchen, and library, with the rooms multiplying as Pablo and Matilde’s forbidden relationship eventually led to marriage. A charming hodgepodge of stone walls, wooden furniture, and bold colours, La Chascona was mostly designed by the “organic architect” that was Neruda. The effect is “an inner environment of intimacy,” according to scholar Miguel Rojas Mix, something to experience on a Santiago holiday.

Fine china, bright candy-hued goblets, and silver knick-knacks are other things to be found in this quirky setting, with each area looking as though its original owners could walk in any minute. Paintings are piled on the walls. In the bedroom, a doll rests on a white quilt, and by the side table is an old-fashioned lantern. The library offers dramatic mountain vistas, and of course, an interesting tome or two.

La Chascona had a tumultuous history, vandalised around the time of Neruda’s death in 1973 during the Chilean coup d'état, because he was an ally of the controversial socialist president Salvador Allende. Neruda’s wake was held in La Chascona amid the ruins.

It has been returned to its former splendour and is now open from Tuesdays to Sundays at 10:00 in the morning to 6:00 in the evening. Tours in English are available for those on their Santiago holidays.

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