There are characters in history whose gifts of intelligence, tenacity, vision and timing work together to produce a life blessed with good fortune. Francisco Piria, born in Montevideo in 1847 to Italian parents, was one of those determined and lucky men. Educated in Genoa by an uncle who was a Jesuit monk, Piria acquired a lifelong interest in ancient mysticism and alchemy along with a strict Christian upbringing.
He returned to Uruguay after completing his studies and found employment with an auction house in the Old City Market, selling clocks, watches, overcoats and boots. When the market was destroyed by fire in 1870, Piria decided to re-establish himself as a real estate auctioneer. His business grew and prospered as Piria bought and sold land for upscale neighbourhoods in Montevideo, Rosario and Buenos Aires.
In 1890 Piria acquired 2700 parcels of land in an undeveloped coastal region 100 kilometers east of the city of Montevideo. His trips to the French Riviera had convinced him that this location, with its white sand beaches, granite hills and virgin forests had the potential to become a successful seaside resort town. The site also had metaphysical qualities that appealed to him, falling in line with harmonious magnetic forces that he claimed existed in a triangular connection with Salto, Uruguay and Cordoba, Argentina. It was an excellent area for positive energy and healthy living.
|Castillo grounds, with statuary and exotic trees|
|Dining hall, with Limoges dinner service|
The interior of the castle has high ceilings, dark woodwork, tiled floors and medieval style furnishings. The museum guide took us upstairs to tour the private living quarters of the Piria family and admire the stunning landscape from the walk-out terrace. It seemed as if the view from each window of the house had been carefully planned to frame basic elements of nature - rocks, water and woods.
|Interior view with chapel|
The Castillo's atmosphere is contemplative and soothing, and one can imagine Piria seated at his desk working on his writing, (articles to be published in his own newspaper "La Tribuna") looking up from his manuscript now and then to enjoy the magnificent vista of the "Pan de Azucar". A flock of parakeets chattering in the garden's lush palm trees reminded us that the secret codes of alchemy, Kabbalah and Renaissance magic were known as "the language of the birds."
|Lobby of the Argentino Hotel|
|A monument to Francisco Piria stands next to the hotel|
Piria died in 1933 at the age of 86, but local legend tells us that he simply disappeared and his body was never found. A large cross was erected in honour of Piria at the top of the Pan de Azucar hill. Some believe that Piria found the philosopher's stone and achieved immortality. Others believe that the place called Piriapolis - the lasting legacy of a man who was a remarkable blend of visionary, eccentric, pioneer, entrepreneur, and socialist - is magic itself.
|The boardwalk, Piriapolis|