“They circled the land, sailed to the south, and, as evening fell, entered under an arch of seagulls, into the narrow strip of a greenish and turbid river, floating images between the dug banks. To the left, rising with the slope, rose the white, yellow and red farmhouses, mixed with the dark granite. Oporto Douro river tile
In the red light of the sunset the city seemed charged with memories, unspeakably old, diaphanous and magnetized, its windows gleaming. “
Sophia de Mello Breyner Andresen
The flight from Brazil to Portugal goes quickly. That was how, exactly a year ago, almost without perceiving it, I passed from the sprawling and intense São Paulo to cozy, peaceful Porto.
The silence of a soft December winter night in Porto just before Christmas was the setting of the first session of this gallery of images I present to you here.
This year I returned to Porto during a warm week in September, and found I could never stray far from the Douro River, which lures us to it at night, and calls to us to breathe in and connect to the infinite Atlantic nearby. The River “Doiro” that “passes tortured, afflicted, always furrowing its profile into our souls”. Oporto Douro river tile
The charm of Porto is as subtle as the nuances and reflections of its river, which my camera attempted to capture during the different moments of those September nights.
The Ribeira district, a medieval labyrinth of alleys descending to the river, has been made into a UNESCO World Heritage Site. From the grand Ponte de Dom Luís, designed by a student of Eiffel, we can cross to the other side of Vila Nova de Gaia, and while sitting in the House of Sandeman savoring the sweet wine of Porto, you might just find that the view of the Porto Cathedral and the tower of the Clérigos church in the background is even more spectacular than the one so often admired from the other side.
“O Porto” is the port, whence the name of Portugal and its famous wine (Vinho do Porto). Porto is also called the “Undefeated City” (“Cidade Invicta”) because it resisted both the attack of the Moors and the imperial army of Napoleon, and has never been defeated or captured since its creation during the Roman Empire. Oporto Douro river tile
In the nineteenth century Porto lived the golden age of tile, a resistant and earthquake proof material, impervious to harsh weather. Many churches had their facades done in tile, taking advantage of the presence of great Portuguese artists who made extraordinary creations in ceramics. On the Igreja do Carmo, Santo Ildefonso, San Juan de los Congregados, the Porto Cathedral, and the São Nicolau churches, among others, one can see this exceptional tile-work on the facades and in the cloisters.
Today we can still walk through the streets of Porto and admire its dazzling tile-work, while we try to interpret the stories told in those myriads of small blue pieces. Oporto Douro river tile
In the lobby of the São Bento train station is a composition of twenty thousand tiles, the work of artist Jorge Colaço, and which is undoubtedly the most welcoming gateway into Porto. Accept my invitation to start the trip…to get on the next boat down the River Douro, and remember the verses of Pedro Homem de Melo’s poem:
What does it say, beyond the mountains,
The Douro River in the afternoon, when it passes?
There are no deeper, stranger songs,
Than those of that narrow river of low water !
What does it say when it sees the face of the city?
O tortured and long streets,
What does it say when it sees the face of the city
Where the veins are streets with a thousand lives?
Pablo Munini @ Milan 14 th December 2018
Oporto Douro river tile