The charming La Chascona Museum, built in 1953 on a high hillside of Cerro San Cristobal in the Bellavista area, is one of the three houses of the 20th-century poet Pablo Neruda. The house was nicknamed La Chascona (woman with unmanageable hair) in honor of Matilde Urrutia, Neruda's secret lover, who lived alone for a year before marrying him in 1966.
Catalan architect German Rodriguez created the initial drawings for the mansion. However, Neruda rejected several of his traditional concepts and models for home construction. Instead, he employed a unique, whimsical architecture of private dwellings linked by a labyrinth of winding staircases, corridors, and secret entrances.
The house has multiple maritime-inspired architectural details such as porthole windows, cozy spaces with creaky floors and arched ceilings, a dining room that once faced a creek giving the illusion of sailing while dining, and a living room that resembles a lighthouse. All of this reflects Neruda's love of the sea.
The interiors showcase Neruda's extensive collection of art and artifacts acquired throughout his travels worldwide. Neruda was a communist and a friend of former president Salvador Allende.
Military vandals vandalized and flooded the property during the 1973 Pinochet-led coup.
La Chascona was eventually restored to its former state by the Pablo Neruda Foundation, which manages the poet's other two properties. It now houses domestic and ornamental artifacts saved from the Santiago home, as well as furniture and personal effects from Neruda's office in France, where he served as ambassador from 1970 to 1973.
The Nobel Prize medal, as well as letters, photos, books, and other publications, are housed in Neruda's library.