The Palacio de Valle is located in Cienfuegos, the second largest harbor in Cuba. Sometimes referred to at the “Pearl of the South”, Cienfuegos was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2005 as a result of the blending of old world architecture and modern urban design.
The Palacio de Valle is a masterpiece of styling, art and history. When Amparo Suero married a wealthy Cuban businessman, Acisclo Valle, her father gave them Palacio de Valle as a wedding gift. The couple renovated the property between 1913 and 1917, at a cost of 1 1/2 million pesos.
Italian architect Alfredo Colli, created this masterpiece, incorporating Italian and French into a building which is dominated by the unique character of Moorish style, carvings and color. The Moslem crescent moon and the words Arabic words meaning “Only God is God” from the Koran, solidify the Moorish influence.
The construction of the building itself relies heavily on Carrara marble, alabaster, Venetian ceramics, Spanish ironwork and the carvings of renowned Spanish artist, Antonio Barcenas to blend much of the beauty of the old world combining the best of Spanish, Muslim, Italian, French and even Egyptian design.
The exterior reflects the beautiful carvings seen throughout the Arab world. The Sphinx guarding the main doorway reflect Egyptian symbols.
Bronze railings of Spanish design are seen throughout the interior and exterior of the building.
The art reflects the interconnections of the Muslim and Christian beliefs. This lovely painting of the Magi, ie. the “Three Kings from the East” focuses on the Magi themselves, relying on the crown to symbolize the Christ child.
This tile Crusader depicts a Christian in full battle attire presumably prepared to fight the Moors.
There is little to explain the reasons for this combination of clashing cultures, representing the images and art of all the involved cultures with beauty, accuracy and respect. Yet the flow of interweaving of the best of the old world, works effectively, playing the grace of Venice with the power of Spain. It is not surprising then, that this building, now a restaurant, is itself recognized as a National Heritage Memorial.
By the standards of any religion or influence, the Palacio is a masterpiece. While the cultural aspects of the building predominate our visit, the timeless beauty of the rooftop bar, with its view of Cienfuegos and the ocean, completed the experience for all of us.