intoHistory, geschiedenis beleven in authentieke logies
The Oliveira Commandery in the region of Upper Douro (now the county town of Mesão Frio), was given as an official reward by King Afonso V to Afonso de Mansilha, who came from Galicia, for services rendered during the Battle of Toro in 1476. This military gentleman created a vast agricultural property and built the first mansion on the site, with views of the wonderful landscape bordered by the Douro River.
© Casa das Torres de Oliveira
The property remained in the Mansilha family for generations, until the 7th grandchild of its founder married Dr. Jose Antonio de Souza e Faria, a Knight of the Order of Christ and Judge of the Royal Household under King João V. In keeping with the fashion of the time, they rebuilt the Casa das Torres de Oliveira in 1740 on the foundations of the old family mansion. At that time the domain’s vines were already producing a beautiful Port wine (still renowned today). It was indeed in the 18th century that English merchants began to import wine in bulk from the Douro valley, as a reaction to the British embargo on the trade in wines from France. This was “fortified” with brandy (to prevent it from deteriorationduring transit).
A typical follower of 18th century fashion, José António de Souza Faria’s wardrobe was made of silk, which at that time was abundantly produced in the Trás-os-Montes and Alto Douro regions. This explains why he was affectionately nicknamed “Sedinhas” (little silks).
@ Casa das Torres de Oliveira
The current owners of Casa das Torres de Oliveira are the descendants of this influential character, six generations down the line. They attach great importance to their ancestor’s legacy and uphold their family traditions with legitimate pride. In 1999, they decided to arrange some guest rooms in the mansion to make this rich heritage accessible to all those with an appreciation of culture and history.
The Casa das Torres de Oliveira is a magnificent, early 18th century mansion, with proportioned forms and splendid granite stonework. The large stone staircase and window frames are typical of patrician buildings of the time, as are the white and blue ceramic tiles at the base of several walls. For instance, the drawing rooms and bedrooms are furnished with period furniture and works of art. Some paintings celebrate the seasons, while others depict historical episodes, local customs or family portraits.
The Mansion’s baroque-style private chapel is a major attraction given the high quality of its workmanship. Its main altar is beautifully integrated into the architecture of the room, being decorated with gilt carvings and featuring opulent liturgical vessels. It provides a valuable contribution to the region’s religious art of the period.
With its romantic setting, leisure areas, swimming pool and numerous footpaths weaving among the vines, the gardens of the Casa das Torres are an invitation to delightful moments of relaxation and historical meditation.
Your guest family will be only too pleased to provide you with an explanation of the numerous historical vestiges, each with its own tale to to tell. Imagine yourselves wearing the fashions of 250 years ago, slowly ascending the stairs to the second floor or enjoying the comfort of the drawing room and the shade of a fruit tree on the terrace… Continue with a visit to the wine cellars and sample the refined production of the domain: Port wine (registered domain of origin)as well as elegant red and white table wines.The savoir-faire and experience of the members of the family will introduce you to the unexpected flavours inherent in this wonderful beverage. You can even take part in the grape harvest in the month of September! Definitely one of the most attractive ways to enter the heart of this culture in the steep valleys of the Douro…
Guided tour of the domaine with Mrs Dorita Girão, owner of the Casa das Torres – an interview of the Portuguese Television (in Portuguese and Spanish)
There are plenty of activities to be enjoyed in the area. Most are listed in the « Top experiences » suggested by the Casa das Torres, and cover various themes: history, tradition, romance, insights, the family and friendship … The Douro Valley is a true source of inspiration. Its history, architecture and works of art provide surprises at every turn. We are talking here of handicraft in the hands of the wise people, popular festivals and the tranquillity of those who know how to enjoy life at a more relaxed pace …
Among the delightful historical places to visit is the noble city of Lamego, the cultural capital of the Douro. Magnificent monuments reflect the historical importance of this urban centre, in which stands the Cathedral and the Nossa Senhora dos Remédios shrine. A few kilometres away, stands one of the most beautiful jewels on the Iberian Peninsula, the early-Romanesque Chapel of S. Pedro do Balsemão, dating back to the tenth century.
Peso da Régua © GOC53
Peso da Régua is the commercial capital of the Douro Valley. For centuries, this city was the place where Port wine was amassed for transportation downstream in oaken casks on “Rabelo” boats to the city of Porto. This historical tradition came to an end with the arrival of the railway in 1887. Not to be missed: the Casa do Douro and the belvedere of S. Leonardo Galafura.
Foz Coa © Henrique Matos
Vila Nova de Foz Côa became famous in the 1990s because of the rock engravings which were discovered during the construction of a dam. This is a classified World Heritage site as these drawings date back to 20,000 to 10,000 years BC. The Archaeological Park is considered the biggest open air site of Palaeolithic art in Europe.
Other places, such as Pinhão, Vila Real and of course the city of Porto are also definitely worth a visit.
Porto © Isabell Schulz
© Ines Hegedus-Garcia
To fully appreciate the period atmosphere of the Casa das Torres de Oliveira, do not hesitate to enhance your stay by reading a few books (nothing beats a good historical novel to bring old stones back to life). Listening to some period music may also be a good way to transport you back in time… A few suggestions:
Learning and understanding
Books to be devoured in situ
Period music to be enjoyed on location
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Casa das Torres
PT-5040-211 MESAO FRIO
+351 254 336 743
+351 254 336 195 (Fax)
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