Built from granite and schist (slate), and located in the heart of the country, Portugal’s mountains villages have witnessed more than 900 years of Portuguese history. But while the villages are amazingly peaceful places to visit, they have not always been so tranquil.
In the past these villages, perched high on hilltops, played a crucial role in protecting the surrounding lands. Their vantage point made it almost impossible for would-be invaders to approach undetected. It was a hugely effective form of defense. Over the centuries, Moors and Christians, Spaniards and Portuguese, have all tried to take the villages for themselves. And as a result each village has its own spell-binding tale to tell. One such example is the village of Almeida, whose formidable fortress capitulated to the French in the 19th century after heroically resisting for 17 days.
Whether you want to experience Portugal’s breath-taking landscapes, its historic fortresses, or the warmth of its people, the villages offer it all.
The harmonious, amphitheatre-like layout of houses of Piodão seem to blend into the landscape.
The delightful, orderly appearance of the houses and streets, all built of schist (slate), is interrupted by the deep blue of the windows and doors of some of the houses. This use of color is said to originate from the fact that the one shop in the village stocked only blue paint, and due to the isolation it was not easy to travel elsewhere.
It was also the isolation that preserved the historic characteristics of Piodão as we see them today. The tiny, whitewashed parish church dedicated to N.S. da Conceição, with its unusual cylindrical buttresses, stands out among the small two-storey houses. The villagers built it with their own money and gold in the early nineteenth century.
Saving the Villages of schist in Lousã
A conservation and resettlement program of the “schist Villages”, financed by the Portuguese government and by European Union, has, is restoring the “Memory” of many long abandoned villages of the Lousã mountains in the Centro Region.
The program began with reviving the techniques of the slate constructions, which has allowed the restoration of the houses to be done by the local workers, this way recovering the tradition of construction traditions. The restoration of each one of these small villages has followed an architectonical plan which included, not only the private houses, but also the public spaces with several functionalities, such as the public wash-houses, agricultural threshing floors and also the spaces closely connected with the most characteristic traditions in each one of the villages such as the burning of the trunk at Christmas.
Both full ands part time residents have revived the ghost towns, and the business of the day sis Tourism – namely with accommodation and outdoor activities and with the sale of the local products.
The development of a sustainable strategy that restores both human occupation and promotes a balanced ecosystem, where it is possible to find both the Mediterranean influences ( cork trees) and the Atlantic ones ( chestnut trees and oak trees), is fundamental for the a tourist industries future in the “Serra da Lousã.”
A National treasure
Portugal’s historic network of more than 23 Shale Villages is now getting around thousands visitors each year. The restored network of towns offer inns, rustic restaurants, and lots of activities and outdoor adventure. The Aldeias de Xisto network opened a chain of stores with items made in the region.
These slate villages, many dating back to the 12th and 13th centuries, offered local inns.
Schist is a metamorphic rock. The term schist is derived from the Greek "to split", which is a reference to the ease with which schist can be split along the plane in which the platy minerals lie.
Aldeias do Xisto - Centro de Portugal
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