"Quintas": a peculiarly Portuguese way
The Portuguese definition for the word "Quinta"
is immediately described as a piece of land to farm on, or to
sow on. However, the definition includes several variations:
a rustic property in the country with a house or cottage improvement,
a country home, or an orchard surrounded by a circle of trees
inside a built property.
But it is the connotation of the word Quinta
that is quite romantic. Usually a Quinta is the type
of property that is mostly owned by wealthy landlords or former
aristocrats - evoking a more genteel way of living.
It is not typical to find many large Quintas
in any given area. The Quintas of Portugal were often
references to a seat of governance for an official, an important
civil servant or influential and wealthy member of society.
The parallel of a Quinta is very much close to that of
a Manor Estate in England - referencing almost always
exclusivity and high class living. It is this definition
that befits closest Quinta do Alto de São João
*Note, however, that in recent history the
term "Quinta" has been extended to include
the category of many small properties such as homesteads in
the city with a large garden. This is the case since many old
Quintas were divided up into different pieces of land
as a result of the "Napoleonic" rule of inheritance
law - prevalent in Portugal since the 18th century. But even
more so since the 1974 revolution in Portugal when wealthy landlords
were sometimes forced to sell large parts of their precious
real estate to many of their live-in labourers or families of
tenants that had worked previously on a "feudal" type
of system for the landlords.
The "feudal-like" system was abolished by the new
government and made it possible for many of the tenants to buy
up the land they worked on merely by being resident upon them.
It is not uncommon to find in Funchal, for example, a small
house being referred to as a Quinta. What may seem as
a misnomer is actually reference to its former glory when it
was previously a large estate. Unfortunately, in some cases,
surrounding the Quinta are more recent improvements
which much too often can be quite unattractive homesteads as
generation after generation of families grew larger and larger
and the scarce land suffered from over-division and over-develpoment.