Life & Leisure

Portugal’s historic, resilient Aldeias do Xisto region

By Carlos Garcia

Janeiro de Cima/Cerdeira, Portugal, Jul 11 (efe-epa).- Acacio, who is in his 80s, weaves wicker baskets in the street, Isilda tends to her goats each morning to make fresh cheese and Rosa threads linen.

These are some of the faces of Aldeias do Xisto, a historic network of towns and villages that was largely spared the effects of the coronavirus outbreak in the country due to its remote setting. A selling point for the return of tourists.

“Enjoying your time and the silence, that’s what people like about it the most,” Manuela Margalho, who owns a tourist accommodation in the village of Janeiro de Cima, an area with a high influx of local and Spanish tourists, tells Efe.

Aldeias do Xisto had a renaissance moment in 2000 following a regeneration project that aimed at recovering the towns in the region, many of which had been abandoned during a rural exodus when, at the end of the 20th century, local people went off to try their luck in cities in Portugal or farther afield in Europe.

All of the settlements are characterized by dark slate buildings, a stone known locally as “xisto,” which lends its name to the region.

The region capitalized on its tourism opportunities in 2003 following a program of restoration to ensure the buildings in the towns and villages were safe for locals and visitors alike.

It paved the way for the creation of Book in Xisto, an association that brings together 150 tourist accommodation offers spread throughout the region’s 27 settlements.

In Janeiro de Cima, visitors can learn how to thread linen the old-fashioned way. 

One of the last survivors of this artform is Rosa Gomes Pereira, who offers courses at the workshop and museum.

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