Wine & waterways, Lamego, Folk dancing

The Douro Valley

The Douro vinhateiro (winegrowing), an area of the Douro Valley in Portugal long devoted to vineyards, has been designated by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. Traditionally, the wine was taken downriver in flat-bottom boats called rabelos, to be stored in barrels in cellars in Vila Nova de Gaia, just across the river from Porto. In the 1960s and 1970s, dams with locks were built along the river, allowing river traffic from the upper regions in Spain and along the border. Nowadays Port wine is transported to Vila Nova de Gaia in tanker trucks. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Douro


Encircled by terraced hillsides that produce some of the world’s best port – and some stellar table wines, too, pretty little Pinhão sits on a particularly lovely bend of the Rio Douro, about 25km upriver from Peso da Régua. Wineries and their competing signs dominate the scene. Even the delightful train station has azulejos (hand-painted tiles) depicting the grape harvest.  https://www.lonelyplanet.com/portugal/pinhao



Solar de Mateus & Vila Real



In northern Portugal, Vila Real is a town in a hilly landscape, clinging to a headland far above the Corgo River. The Corgo is a tributary of the Douro and meanders down to the main stream through an epic landscape of terraced vineyards.

Around the town you can visit a noble family’s palace, which was decked out in Baroque decoration by the Italian master Nicolau Nasoni in the 1700s. He also worked on the finest church in Vila Real, one of a selection of distinguished granite buildings in the old centre. And out in the countryside are mountain ranges, a village that has pottery listed by UNECO and the eerie ruins of a Roman sacrificial altar.

Mateus Palace: Nicolau Nasoni, the man who had a lasting impact on Portuguese Baroque architecture, helped design this noble estate in Vila Real. The palace is agreed as one of the finest Baroque civil buildings, constructed in extravagant style for the 3rd Morgado of Mateus in the first half of the 18th century.  The property is still owned by his descendants, and the only way to see the richly furnished property is on a tour. Some of the best bits inside are the library, which has little iron lanterns and the dining hall with a carved wooden ceiling. On the grounds there’s a chapel, water garden, a garden of box hedges in filigree patterns and a “Túnel de Cedro” natural tunnel made from interlinking cedar branches.