Santar Vila Jardim: a town that flourishes
Surrounded by beautiful gardens and ponds, small squares, fountains, almshouses and crosses, Santar's heritage reminds us of the sophistication of old Europe. Here you'll find architectural imposing buildings such as the 16th century Manor House of the Counts of Santar and Magalhães, whose chapel dates back to the 18th century, and where Mannerism, Baroque and Neoclassicism meet; the Paço dos Cunhas, which has since been rebuilt and is now a wine tourism center and restaurant; the Manor House of the Chapel of N. Sra. da Piedade, dating back to the 18th century. Sra. da Piedade, dating from the 16th to 18th centuries, the Igreja Matriz de S. Pedro de Santar, whose original construction dates back to the 12th century, the aforementioned Igreja da Misericórdia, dating from the 17th century, and the Casa das Fidalgas, dating from the 17th century, which was donated to the Dukes of Bragança and has now been restored to house our hotel.
Behind its imposing and silent walls, the town of Santar is a discovery of gardens scattered with hedges of boxwood - including the beloved "carreiras" from Beira - terraces of different greens, delicate rose bushes and all kinds of beautiful and well-kept flowers. Cultivated since time immemorial, these gardens were well-kept secrets that had been squandered over the years, until the Vasconcellos e Souza brothers began a unique project in 2013, with the Ibérico Nogueira and Portugal Loureiro families and the Misericórdia de Santar, to rehabilitate these five gardens belonging to four different families, ennoble them and unite the properties: the Santar Vila Jardim project.
Spanish landscaper Fernando Caruncho, known as "the gardening philosopher", has designed gardens all over the world and was chosen to design this project. Always inspired by his references to geometry, light and water, the beauty and proportion of Classical Antiquity, the poetry of Rilke or Al-Andaluz, and the rationality of gardens such as those in Cordoba and Granada, the Parisian Vaux-le Vicomte or the Pitti Palace in Florence and the Zen examples of Ryoan-Ji in Kyoto. When he arrived in Santar, he found an unusual group of manor houses built close to the locals, and not outside the towns as is common, so he decided to take advantage of this proximity. He connected the manor gardens with small bridges and gates, revived them and gave new life to the town of Santar, which now welcomes not only lovers of Dão wine, but anyone interested in gardens and the history of Portugal. His idea was to wake up nature.
Caruncho's aesthetic identity refuses artifice and doesn't fixate on a specific era; it combines natural elements with geometric shapes, in the interests of great peace and harmony. In the garden of Casa de Santar, some original flowerbeds remained, in other squares of boxwood, but they were mostly used as a vegetable garden, with half a dozen fruit trees, citrus fruits. Everything else was done from scratch in the gardens of Casa dos Linhares, Casa da Magnólia, Igreja da Misericórdia and Casa das Fidalgas, now the Valverde Santar hotel. In this one, more specifically, the avenue of trees remained, some two or three centuries old, as well as the garden area next to the water tank and a small vegetable garden tended by the caretaker of D. Miguel de Bragança, who lived there for some years.
Stone walls were knocked down and pergolas were built to give the southern gardens a fresh look. Boxwood parterres, camellia boulevards and wisteria arboretums were also made. Laurel trees and different shades of roses from the great English grower David Austen were planted, including Santa Teresinha roses. But there are also leafy magnolias, orange trees, cosmos and small country meadows where California orange poppies stand out. There are orchards, herb gardens and community gardens, worked by the local population, original fountains with frowns and a small lake where the water flows in serenity. In 2021, the Santar Vila Jardim project received the European Garden Award in the category of "Protection and Development of a Cultural Landscape."
With a stay at the hotel, all guests receive a guided tour of the Santar gardens.