Valparaíso, Chile: The Poet Nerruda’s Home – La Sebastiana

Posted by on Mar 3, 2013 in Chile, South America, Travel Blog and Destinations | 0 comments

Valparaíso, Chile: The Poet Nerruda’s Home – La Sebastiana

At the edge of the little map issued to tourists of Valparaiso and near the top of the hills is the quirky, narrow, tall and perfect home of the poet, Pablo Neruda named “La Sebastiana.”

Forty years after his death, his home is the humble and magnificent palace of an artist who is forever curious, and young at heart. It is my dream home, from another life. Each corner offered more and more treasures, each (as the audio tour attests) with it’s own story. The items come together to bring the poet to life, animating the black and white portraits with good humor and light.

Pablo Neruda's washroom mirror

Me and my Chile travel buddy, Dave, peering into the washroom for the brave.. Note the very un-modest door.

A theme in visiting South America so far has been poking around in the houses of dead people. The morbidity of stepping into another life in another time is thrilling. The items around pull my breath into somewhere magic and colourful; somewhere people lived out a lifetime that was as rich and detailed as my own. The moment a floorboard screams through the silence suddenly my heart is back in my own body, it’s many years later, and I live in the distant and unimaginable future, while the people and voices I was just so closely a part of are dead in the ground.


Pablo Neruda's Bar

Unfortunately there is a “no photography” “rule” so I could only get a few quick shots when no one was looking. This is Neruda’s bar where only he could enter to fix drinks.

La Sebastiana is a time capsule. From the first to the second floor is a pebble mosaic of Patagonia made with such texture and care I wanted to run my hands across it (and may have if there weren’t so many people around.) By the time I climbed the narrow candy pink and white striped staircase to the living room and dining room I was smitten. The third floor is almost entirely windows on the west side, and the whole city and ocean opens their arms to you. The room itself is one I could spend years in, and it’s no wonder he loved to have guests over to drink wine from heavy glass chalices. Neruda was the kind of person who buys a painting to keep another painting company so they don’t get lonely.

Most of Neruda’s writing was done in the 5th floor study, a perfectly sized contemplative box perched at the very top. After going through his home and hearing his story, I bought a book of poems by him.  Here is one:


The future is space,

Earth-coloured space,

Cloud coloured,

Colour of water, air,

Black space with room for many dreams,

White space with room for all snow,

for all music.

Behind lies despairing love

With no room for a kiss.

There’s a place for everyone in forests,

In streets, in houses;

There’s an underground space, a submarine space,

But what joy to find in the end,


an empty planet,

great stars clear as vodka,

so uninhibited and so transparent

and arrive there with the first telephone

so that so many men can later discuss

all their infirmities.

The important thing is to be scarcely aware of oneself,

To scream from a rough mountain range

And see on another peak

The feet of a woman newly arrived.


Come on, let’s leave

This suffocating river

In which we swim with other fish

From dawn to shifting night

And now in this discovered space

Let’s fly to a pure solitude.


-Pablo Neruda (Translated from Spanish from “Essential Neruda” Edited by Mark Eisner, Pehuen Editores, 2004)

Sleeping Valparaiso Cat with Watermelons

The important thing is to scarcely aware of oneself…

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