Situated in the town of Monte, high up to the north of Funchal and accessed by the Cable Car (and the excellent bus services that criss-cross the capital and environs), this is a rescue project with ambition. Monte Palace was once a prestigious hotel that fell out of favour, and then out of time, until a benefactor with a vision came along and transformed the neglected gardens into a very surprising set of gardens, including two oriental inspired creations that are richly rewarding, a lush forest of tree ferns, art and statuary and superb views across to the City and Port.
Steeply, and I mean steeply, terraced, but with imaginative paths, promentories, steps, bridges and viewpoints that make the very most of the site. And Water everywhere, trickling, pooling, cascading, fountaining, geysering, mirrored and turbulent…. Add a new-build museum (with African statuary and a fine mineral and gemstone collection), some serious decorative tiles and a Palace inspired by Rheinland castles. I’ve not been to our own Portmerion, but I think it might look a little like this (if it were towed south, into the Atlantic, off the coast of Morocco and well fertilised).
The Monte Palace was built at the end of the 19th century and has a Germanic tone… it is no longer a hotel, but what it is, if it is lived in or… I don’t know.
The Southern Oriental Garden, with Koi ponds –
Forest of tree ferns, with cycads and underplanted with agapanthus, clivia, bromeliads, ferns
1,000 year old olive trees at the entrance
Looking over the ornamental balustrade to the wicker toboggans heading down to Funchal, a couple of kilometres downhill… while in the main square at Monte, tall Plane trees shade the cafe…. while we wait for the No. 48 bus!
In the 18th century the English Consul Charles Murray, bought a property south of the church in “Monte” and transformed it into a beautiful estate, then called “Quinta do Prazer” (The Pleasure Estate). Towards the end of the 19th century, some of the wealthiest families of Madeira used to live in fine estates situated on the outskirts of Funchal.
In 1897, Alfredo Guilherme Rodrigues acquired the forenamed estate and, inspired by the palaces that he once saw on the margins of the Rhine River, he built a palace-like residence which was later converted into a Hotel named the “Monte Palace Hotel”.
This Hotel was visited by eminent national and foreign people who appreciated and enjoyed this lovely resort with its breathtaking views of Funchal and the natural surroundings.
In 1943, Alfredo Guilherme Rodrigues passed away. Unfortunately his family did not pursue his undertaking, consequently leading to the closing of the hotel which, in the meantime, was taken over by a financial institution, the “Caixa Económia do Funchal”.
In 1987, that Financial Institution sold the Monte Palace Hotel to the entrepreneur José Manuel Rodrigues Berardo, who in turn donated it to the Foundation which he created and named after himself. This was how the “Monte Palace Tropical Garden” originated.
Since it’s acquisition the “Monte Palace Tropical Garden” has been re-established, with both exotic plants native to various countries (Cycads and Protea from South Africa, azaleas from Belgium, heather from Scotland, among others) and indigenous plants from the Madeira forest namely, “Laurissilva”, such as ferns, cedars, laurels, Canary Laurels, etc. The garden was also enriched with the introduction of Koi fish into the existing lakes. Two more lakes with a capacity of 300,000 litres of water were also built. These incorporate a sophisticated filtering system and water purifier, without the use of chemicals that ensure a healthy habitat for the fish, which provide an enjoyable display of colours for our visitors.
The garden lanes were adorned with blazonry, squared stones, windows, niches, pagodas, Buddhas, lanterns from different parts of the world and sculptures in natural or cut stone. Walking through the garden, you can admire the renowned ceramic tile collection (dating from 15th – 20th centuries), a panel of 166 terracotta glazed tiles entitled “The adventure of the Portuguese in Japan” and a group of 40 panels portraying the History of Portugal, including the most important events of the kingdoms and the Republics.
We hope that you will come and visit us here at the Garden but in case it is not possible, we have published this website to share this little bit of paradise at the Monte Palace Tropical Garden with you.
An island of flowers – Part 5: Monte Tropical Gardens