“It’s so hard to explain the magic of this place to people who haven’t been here,” says Georgina’s 21-year-old daughter, Bianca, who’s visiting from Paris for the Easter holiday. “You tell people, ‘Well, in the village there are all these little houses around a big field of grass!’ And they’re like, ‘D’accord, whatever.’ But then they get here, and they understand.”
Indeed, if you arrive on Trancoso’s Quadrado after sundown, chances are you’ll fall under its spell pretty quickly. Closed to cars and devoid of streetlights, the square is lit by colored lanterns hanging from mango and jackfruit trees; the soundtrack is a mix of bossa nova and soft laughter coming from the alfresco restaurants, punctuated by the faraway beats of drummers gathered near the church. By day, barefoot teenagers play soccer and practice acrobatic capoeira moves in front of the traditional one-story cottages, which are painted in hues from canary yellow to acid-trip purple. And at all hours there’s the distinct scent of burning cannabis, Bahia’s unofficial state plant.
Of course, Trancoso’s unhurried, no-stress vibe is not particularly suited to construction projects, as the Brandolinis discovered after breaking ground on their house a few years ago and then watching the delays ensue. “It was a mess,” Georgina says with a smile. “We had permission to build, but apparently the guy who gave us permission didn’t have the right to give it.” Reclining on a patio sofa in a vintage Pucci sundress, Georgina speaks in a throaty, rat-a-tat clip while casually alternating among English, French, Italian and Portuguese, depending on the listener. Construction was halted, she recalls, while she and her architect, Italian-born Fabrizio Ceccarelli, chased after the “25,000 authorizations” required by Trancoso’s strict zoning regulations.
For the design, Georgina told Ceccarelli and decorator Sig Bergamin, “I want something very open.” But evidently not too open. “I hate bugs,” she says. “A lot of houses in Bahia have open bathrooms. So at night you turn on the light, and there are all these things flying around.” With its glass walls and louvered eucalyptus doors and windows, the house opens up to the breeze during the day but shuts tight when the air-conditioning comes on at night. Because it often rains in Trancoso for days on end, there are a variety of sheltered outdoor decks and terraces, and a pillow-strewn screening room for cloudy afternoons. The decor, what there is of it, is resolutely simple: wooden furniture with comfortable white upholstery, and a few framed photos and Bahian curios. Georgina insisted that all eight bedrooms, including her own, be the same size, adding to the casual, democratic vibe. “In this house you can just lay down anywhere, you know?” she says.