If you ever wished to live in a house with the emblematic staircase of Bookstore Lello, in Porto, try looking at the staircase of this 18th-century palace facing the River Ave, in the heart of Minho. Some say it's the staircase that leads to heaven.
While the bookstore in Porto is only to be visited, this dazzling Minho miracle with 400 thousand square metres of land is on sale and can be inhabited. And whilst Lello is associated with Harry Potter, a youth fiction character, this property unites three real-life figures of vital culture: the world's oldest filmmaker, Manoel de Oliveira, who died in 2015 at the age of 106, the Portuguese writer of inimitable uniqueness Agustina Bessa-Luís, who disappeared last year at the age of 96, and the renowned French actor Michel Piccoli, whom we lost this year at the age of 94, and whom the news agency in France named "a monument of French cinema". All of them contribute to the magic that makes Quinta Villa Beatriz, built between Taipas and Póvoa de Lanhoso, one of the most desired places in Portugal. Because they all participated in a film that achieved what no fairy tale could: to describe the elegance and beauty of this vineyard and inscribe it forever in the collective memory of the world.
Oliveira's film is called "Magic Mirror" (2005). Piccoli was one of the actors in the cast of this film that ran the world adding prizes, namely the coveted Golden Lion. And every time the film made a stop at a festival, such as Venice, in Italy, or Huelva, in Spain, a vision didn't escape the international press: that blue four-tower house surrounded by vineyards and idyllic gardens. All the press at the time, amazed, questioned whether this Palace was real or just a setting. It was real.
Built at the end of the 19th century by the parents of Francisco Antunes Guimarães, one of the wealthiest families in the village, this house with 13 bedrooms, 8 bathrooms and 6 garages was completed in 1906. And it remains in the same family until today. According to official documents that served to classify this house as a Monument of Public Interest in 2012, the property was ordered to be built for Beatriz, the owner's fiancée, who never lived there, because she died too young in Brazil, where Mr. Guimarães had lived for many years. The real estate is also a typical example of what has been called the "house of the Brazilian". That is, a Palace that obeys an innovative architecture of romantic nature, until then unusual in Portugal.
Restored in 1991 by Carmen Guimarães, Quinta Villa Beatriz, 70 hectares built in the heart of the “Vinho Verde” region - still today with production of excellent quality wine from the Loureiro, Trajadura and Pedrenã grape varieties, and distribution of two own brands - consists of a body with four equal angles, each with two floors, and four towers of three floors. The main façade is recessed to integrate the entrance hall and a balcony. The access is made by a staircase with stone balustrade, on which two classic columns are placed. The Palace retains the refinement of all its original finishes: noble wood floors, plastered ceilings and hand painted walls.
In the gardens, overlooking the river Ave, on a front that stretches for 1,200 metres, appears the extensive vineyard - the house is equipped with a cellar prepared for winemaking, bottling and storage -, but also the tropical plants, the vast woods and the swimming pool built in granite of the region. There is also a building built in 1898, annexed to the palace and recently recovered, an agricultural and cattle breeding farm, a cowshed with mechanical milking, a rural museum and a river beach.
It is worth watching the acclaimed "Magic Mirror", not only for the wonderful story of Alfreda (played by the muse of Oliveira, Leonor Silveira), the lady of the aristocracy who wished Our Lady to appear to her, but also for the incredible poem "Danse Macabre", written by Henri Cazalis and put to music by the French composer Camille Saint-Saëns. And, above all, because Oliveira's beautiful feature film is the best visiting card for the amazement that this house, located 40 minutes away from Porto, brings us.