It was a crisp autumn morning when we set out for the enchanting village of the Serra do Açor, Piódão. Zigzagging our way through the highlands, at every corner, we were gifted with breathtaking landscapes and impressive mountain and valley compositions that struck us with a blow of a white glove. There are such beautiful places in Portugal, but we spend all our lives trying to escape overseas.

The torturous course made me believe that, like the story of the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, arriving at our destination would compensate for each unexpected curve. The truth is that we chose to cross the highlands, because there are easier ways to get to Piódão…But as they say, “It’s not the destination, it’s the journey.” And falling in love with the Serra do Açor is part of the experience of traveling to this Historic Village.

A few kilometers from Piódão, we began to catch glimpses of the small schist houses in the background. Upon finding cars parked along the side of the road, abandoned by drivers who, awestruck like us, were making use of the clearings among the trees to take their first photos of the Nativity Scene Village, we did not resist and also stopped to take the inaugural “shots.” In search of the best photograph, we studied the best angles and perspectives among the landscapes and spent time once again contemplating the Serra do Açor. Beleaguered by the fires in 2017, the Serra had begun to recover its green tones and brilliance that make it a must-see attraction. Luckily, despite Man’s evils, nature always finds its way.

Still some distance away from Piódão, we preferred to park and walk calmly to the village. Since the moment we stopped to take the first photos, we had not been able to abandon the camera – which remained so until we left Piódão. There are many nooks and places to “ask” for a photo that any professional or amateur “would lose their mind.”

We began the climb up towards the houses, discovering the schist mazes painted sky blue on the windows and doors. A curious choice of harmonious and peaceful colors that made us feel as if we had passed through a magical portal into another dimension somewhere amid the passages of the Serra do Açor.

Nevertheless, we found Miguel Torga’s poem immortalized on the wall of one of the houses in Piódão: “Recomeça, se puderes, sem angústia e sem pressa.” (“Recommence, if you can, without anguish and without rush.) The words of the doctor who fell in love with the region at the time he was practicing his medical professional in Arganil could not be any more appropriate for this place. Piódão’s charm makes us believes that our dreams are possible, even if they seem unattainable. This is the power of this Historic Village’s peace and tranquility of. It helps us forget the cities’ everyday worries and negativism and realize that our problems matter little when there are places like Piódão that inspire us to move forward.

After visiting each nook of the Historic Village, from the Parish Church – which stands out amid the scenery in its immaculate white color, in contrast with the schist houses – to the small Chapel of Souls, the source for the wineries, and the most “Instagrammable” corners of Piódão. We realized that the morning had flown by. Having fed the spirit with discoveries in Piódão, it was time to feed the body.

The “O Fontinha” restaurant, near Piódão’s fountain, was our destination. Advertised as the perfect place for tasting regional food, we set aside our diets and ordered chanfana, a typical dish of goat meat roasted in a wood-burning oven. A true delight, a must-have experience, just as this Historic Village.

Back again on Piódão’s streets, we walked down to the river beach. The beautiful meal at “Fontinha” left us lazy and sleepy. So, we took advantage of the welcoming rays of sunlight to take a load off in one of the country’s dazzling river beaches before our next stop.

Once we recovered our energies, we hit the road again. We heard of the story of Foz d’Égua and the unlucky businessman of Palmela who had bought land many years ago to build a house for himself and another for each one of his children (evidently, two). The place turned into an idyllic river beach with two picturesque schist bridges completing the fascinating image. They say that the man suffered an accident during one of the construction phases on that land and enjoyed Foz d’Égua far less time then he would have liked. A true philanthropist, after “beautifying” (as they say here) the river beach, he opened it to the public for free enjoyment. A magical, must-see place. With each photo I snapped, I felt that no matter how much I studied the best angle and light, my “shots” would never do justice to Foz d’Égua’s beauty.

With a heart full of stunning landscapes, we left Piódão while enjoying the magnificent colors of the Serra do Açor’s sunset. Upon leaving, it is impossible not to wish to return as soon as possible to Piódão’s peace and tranquility.

Fátima Gomes Casanova