During a recent short trip to Sintra, in Portugal, I was fortunate enough to stay in a 300 year old village called Aldeia Mata Pequena. It’s about a 30 minute drive from Lisbon and is located within the protected area of a nearby extinct volcano, Penedo do Lexim.
I had been given some information about the village, but I really had no idea what to expect before I arrived. All I knew was that it was a husband and wife team who had brought and renovated some traditional Portuguese houses to help bring a dwindling village back to life.
When I arrived in the village, it was already dark. However, modern, electric street lamps provided some light . As I was about to find out, they have seamlessly combined the old with the new.
I hadn’t thought too much about where I was gong to stay. I certainly didn’t expect to have a house to myself, but that’s what I got. We stopped at the front door of a small house, the smallest in the village, and I was told I would be staying in this 200 year old, one-bed house. Cool! I walked in, smiled, and knew this was going to be good. The only negative I could see was the fact that I would only have one night there. Well, I had to make the most of it.
From the front door, I entered a small kitchen. As I was about to walk from the kitchen to the living room, Diogo told me to be careful of my head. At 5ft 3½ inches (the ½ inch being very important, of course), I rarely have to mind my head on anything, so that was a bit of a novelty. I think I smiled the whole time I was being shown around the house. I asked, thinking it was a pointless question, if there was WiFi. To my surprise, Diogo answered, ‘Yes’, and said something about bringing a modem. I looked a little perplexed, thinking it was probably a communication issue but, a few minutes later, he arrived back with a modem in hand. So, I had a strong WiFi connection in this old house – fabulous!
After that, I locked the front door, sat in my sitting room for a bit before carefully carrying my backpack up the narrow, windy staircase to the only room on the first floor, the bedroom.
In the morning, I got up, went downstairs, and opened the back door to marvel at the magnificent countryside view. Because the village is high up, I had a panoramic view from the garden. I went into the kitchen, opened the front door, and there was freshly-baked bread hanging on the door in a drawstring gingham bag, just as Diogo had promised. I prepared a coffee, using the Italian stove top coffee maker that was in the kitchen, and sat in my dining room at the back of the house for breakfast.
After that, it was time to get ready. One of the modern touches is an internal bathroom. Diogo and Ana have taken care to preserve the roots and history of the region and remain true to the original identity and character of the village. They have gone to great lengths to do so, using traditional material, preserving what they can, and speaking with older people from the village to find out where to put the furniture, what colours to use etc. As a result, the village is now a rare example of traditional architecture in the Saloio region (a region north of Lisbon).
After breakfast, Diogo happily showed me and a German couple around the village. There are 12 houses to rent (7 one bed, 3 two bed, and 2 three bed houses). There’s also a small farm in the village with a variety of animals, which includes peacocks and a very friendly, cute pig!
Staying in this village was a wonderful experience because it gave me the rare opportunity to see how people used to live as well as learn about and experience it. Every house has its own character, style, and layout. That’s because houses were built according to people’s needs rather than wants. One thing they all have is the original bread oven, all of which are in good working order. Diogo and Ana are happy to help people bake bread in the house they are staying in, if that’s something they want to do. How fab is that? If I had time, I’d have had a go.
I’m a bit of a dreamer, so this place got me thinking of how nice it would be to have a small house like this in such a beautiful, tranquil location. I also thought about how great it would be to share the experience with some friends. You know, rent some of the houses in the village. When I returned to the UK, I told a group of friends about the village and they loved the sound of it. So, maybe, just maybe, that will be a short break for us next year. Apparently, a wedding party from the UK did that and had pretty much the whole village to themselves.
If you want to cook, you can. If not, there is a restaurant in the village or you could pop to another village or into the town of Mafra or Ericeira, for example.
There are a number of things to see and do because the village is close to Lisbon, Sintra, Mafra, and a number of fantastic beaches. Just to get you started, you could visit the Palace of Mafra in the town of Mafra, which is interesting, the beach in Ericeira, which is famous for surfing, a donkey sanctuary, the historic centre of Sintra, or Mafra National Park, which has deer, boar and a variety of other fauna and flora. You can see and do as much or as little as you want. The choice is yours!
It’s easier if you have a car, but you can get around by bus. This is where it is located and where it is in relation to some of the places I have mentioned…
Have your say
What do you think about the idea of taking over a village for a few days or a week with your family and friends?
I was in Sintra and Mafra on behalf of Traveldudes as a guest of Active Lisbon Coast. Diogo and Ana from Aldeia Mata Pequena are part of this. I genuinely liked this village a lot and intend to return some day with my friends to stay for a few nights.