LUXURY IN THE WILDERNESS
Manrico and Vera resolved to marry three months later. They flew to Portugal, here Manrico hoped to receive the blessing of Vera’s mother. On this fateful weekend, however, the mother was hosting a lavish party for several distinguished families. Though entirely at ease among such distinguished Italian guests as the Agnellis, Pirellis and Brandolinis, Manrico was obliged to request a new appointment with his mother-in-law-to-be. A somewhat busy lady, she would have no appointment free until three days hence; thus, Vera and Manrico headed off to Comporta, the region of Vera’s youth. Although the landscape was overgrown and the small huts dilapidated, they were each of them enthralled by the natural light and luminosity of the sky. The white undulating sand dunes extended for miles; waves would erupt and break from a turquoise sea. Glancing around, they came across the ruins of two small thatched cabanas owned by an aged couple. Their hearts were set on buying these dwellings there and then; after paying the owners $500, they then made their way back to the home of Vera’s mother.
At the appointed hour, Vera’s mother, now seated at her desk equipped with diary and pen in hand, Manrico announced his intention to marry her daughter. The response was dire: “Not on my life”; at this point, Vera, who had been anxiously waiting in the wings, vehemently intervened and with overwhelming success. Six months later, the knot was tied at what was to be the wedding event of the year.
“WE’LL JUST FLY THE CESSNA AROUND THE WORLD TRADE CENTER!”
Once returned to New York, they continued to enjoy the hustle and excitement that was the hallmark of their lives. Accompanied by Vera, Manrico would navigate his Cessna along the Hudson River, an airborne outing which finally culminated in a “figure of eight” circumnavigation of the World Trade Center. “Those were the days,” Manrico recounts with wistful, glistening eyes. We were the both of us fully occupied, happy and at the height of our careers. While Andy Warhol’s sudden passing was a tragedy for Vera, it marked a turning point in their lives and subsequent decision to -return to Europe. Hence, once back in Paris, Manrico re-joined Generali while Vera began collaborating with renowned interior designer, Jacques Grange. Their activities were perfectly complimentary: in Paris each one pursued fascinating projects – Caroline of Monaco commissioned Jacques to design the interior of her yacht and with Vera as his assistant, while they meanwhile set about creating their very own paradise in Comporta. Turning their two, twenty-nine-year-old cabanas into their home involved bulldozing away the debris, laying sandy pathways, and installing thousands of metres of plumbing and electric cable. Photo shoots by Vogue and visits by Jacques Grange and Amyn Aga Khan followed the completion of the building work; their visitors would gush on beholding this “paradise of simplicity”. Manrico would later seek out properties for for others, such as Jacques Grange, Vera’s mother and Philip Stark.. Vera augmented her own resort by introducing additional cabanas, meanwhile perfecting her peerless style of interior design. Manrico was hard at work, devoting himself with no less élan to his beloved automobiles; he restored these classics to perfection with the aid of English mechanics, who he had also commissioned to install a garage in close proximity to his home. During this time, he also took part in rallies and motor shows.
MANRICO’S ARTEFACT “THE SILVER BENTLEY”
Manrico has been on the road with his legendary Bentley R Type Continental – licence plate ABC 12 – since 1990. Originally midnight blue, Manrico had the lacquer stripped and the light alloy body polished up to shining, radiant silver. His itinerary of motoring exploits with this Bentley, are inscribed on the passenger door:
- Louis Vuitton Classic China Run 1998
- 1000 Millas Argentina 1998
- Louis Vuitton Bagatelle 2000
- 50th Anniversary Silverstone Louis Vuitton 2002
- Louis Vuitton Classic Boheme 2006
This very same Bentley was reported stolen in Argentina some 23 years ago, while being freighted by ship. Opening the doors only to behold an empty container came as a ghastly shock. After considerable commotion, umpteen enquiries and numerous telephone calls, an anonymous caller came forward one year later to explain where the vehicle was located. Thankfully, this superlative specimen is now safely restored to the ranks of Manrico’s collection in Comporta. Manrico commissioned the construction of a building adjacent to his estate especially designed for his passion; not only does it house examples of his classic cars, motorbikes and racing bikes, but also countless memorabilia, photos and artefacts, all of which bear remarkable testimony to his life.
HIGHPOINT AND WATERSHED
Following a seven-year period during which he would commute between France and Portugal, the opportunity arose to launch a branch of Europ Assistance in Portugal. In collaboration with Espírito Santo, this branch rapidly expanded and prepared the way for a breakthrough to the Brazilian market. This was promptly followed by the establishing of additional branches in Argentina and Chile, all of which Manrico launched and directed. A seat on the Board of Directors of the holding in Paris brought with it further responsibilities in the Asia region. As President and CEO of Portugal, South America and Asia, he toiled around the clock, circumnavigating his professional universe five times a year.
Having meanwhile fathered two daughters and a son, his home in Comporta had by now blossomed into an outstanding resort, all the while his fascination for collecting classic cars never for one moment waning.
His wife Vera became gravely ill; after her passing, Manrico, by now 65 years old, discontinued his professional career to care for his children. The pain he felt for Vera at the time, he remarks, and witnessing the pain suffered by his children, brought about a transformation. Today, Manrico lives between Comporta, Lisbon and Gstaad, where he is a self-confessed “business maniac” committed to the further development of the Gstaad Yacht Club. During our visit to Comporta, we were in the privileged position to immerse ourselves in Manrico’s world, to make the acquaintance of this exceptionally gifted businessman, gentleman and bon vivant, who, forever driven by his own remarkable standards and achievement, keeps the reins tight in his hands according to the motto estote parati!