Guests staying at Quinta do Tedo often inquire about “different” itineraries to follow when in Douro Valley, to get off the beaten track and as an option from wonderful winery visits and tastings. I have several options for day trips, targeted to the visitor who wants to travel down country roads, where 4-way stops are not at 90* angles, where the eye takes in nature, agriculture and visible history and where one really feels immersed in a different culture – slower, and with a rich and discreet culture.
This blog focuses on one itinerary destination: the first Cisterican monastery in Portugal in Tarouca – about an hour drive IF you don’t stop. If you are a guest in our 5-bedroom Agroturismo at Quinta do Tedo, after a regional breakfast overlooking Tedo river and our steeply terraced vineyards and olive orchards, take off to discover the “hinterlands” southwest of our property,
Arrive to agriculture-based Armamar, and stop to admire the pristine simplicity of the Roman/Gothic cathedral in the town’s center. This is Portugal’s apple capital, known for the golden delicious variety. Across the street and appropriately named Pasteleira Apple, a bar/bakery/local hangout boasts outstanding apple cakes, a cross between a cookie and a muffin. The dense pão do milho (corn bread) with a chewy crust is the best that I know of in Douro Valley – and is sure to please.
Onwards to the monastery of Salzedas, dating back to the 1100s, about 20 minutes south from Armamar, passing by apple orchards, olive groves, small meat smoking businesses and clusters of homes in random patterns. Take a tour of the monastery, don’t expect lines to get in, and take your time to appreciate the beautifully painted ceilings and granite carvings.
Afterwards a lunch stop awaits you in Ucanha, where travelers in the Varosa river in medieval times paid a tax to cross over the bridge. Check out the small agricultural museum on the toll tower’s 3rd floor, displaying tools that give a glimpse of how life was, even as in the 1900s. The Taverna di Matias, a simple yet warm restaurant known for migas – bread-based soups/appetizers/main courses that are typical of the region. Have a local chocolate liqueur as a digestive on the other side of the bridge, a unexpected find!
The 12th-century Monastery of São João de Tarouca surprises the visitor on first impact, as one wonders how was the sleepy Varosa valley was chosen for the first Cisterican monastery in Portugal, but then one must remember the historical and religious importance of nearby Lamego. The proportions are grandiose. Today in ruins, except for a lovely church and an impressive interactive museum (the Portuguese master interactive exhibits) – the visit gives an poignant ode to history and to how people lived, close to 1000 years ago – what a work force! A walk around the grounds, where a spring runs through the ruins, also hosts a recently renovated herb garden for homeopathic medicine that is still used today.
A glass of Quinta do Tedo Porto welcomes you upon your return to our estate, ideally by the pool to enjoy the afternoon overlooking Tedo river with birds diving down to steal a fish or two.