Houses built of schist stone, majestic natural surrounding and high hills – typical image of Schist villages in the heart of Portugal. Even though the scenery is breathtaking, living here was not always a piece of cake. Nevertheless, people have found their way of living in this region again, but with a different attitude and activities.
Hidden between mountain slopes of leafy vegetation, the schist villages are one of the best hidden gems in Portugal. One can find rivers, bike trails, monuments, museums and even a castle that appears to emerge from thin air. There are 27 different types of villages known to man, 5 of them are in Lousã. They are Chiqueiro, Casal Novo, Candal, Cerdeira and most familiar Talasnal. Chiqueiro was the only schist village in Lousã with a chapel. Whilst Talasnal had the only school, which meant that the locals had to walk from one village to the other. There were only walking trails before so it was very difficult for one to travel.
On the whole, the villages were built high up so as ‘not to waste’ the good land for agriculture near the rivers. The land which was lower than the mountains had better potential to cultivate. So it can be reasoned that these people depended on agriculture such as taking care of sheeps or goats, even the production of honey and chestnuts. Thanks to agriculture it was the only source of income. However, life in the mountains was very harsh and far away from everything so through time they preferred to go and live in the city. After the 1960s, people have realized that the schist villages can offer a kind of serenity that can be achievable possibly by a weekend getaway.
In recent years, the schist villages of Lousã are being restored, following the return of people that want a different lifestyle connected with nature. With this reconstruction and the increase of tourism in villages, a new era in schist villages has started. Manuel Vítor Carvalho, owner of a house in the area for more than 20 years, rents houses in his possession through air bnb to tourists, most of whom are Portuguese. Although there are restorations in the village, according to Manuel, “The villages have not returned to what they were in the past. They aren’t coming back to agricultural and pastoral production, and it will never be the way it used to be”.
Tourist development is mostly done by Portuguese from cities and by foreign investors who buy a few houses here, renovate them and afterwards they offer it as an air bnb. Moreover, it seems like a good job opportunity and it also can bring money to the region.
Although there is a concern to renovate the schist villages maintaining the traditional architecture of its houses, there has been an excessive tourist development that could lead to the loss of character of the village.