The most beautiful house in Portugal

“I remember going up a monumental staircase. It is staircases that confer the status of palace to Portuguese houses. (…) Then, I walked through the rooms, first the large ones, with stately, majestic dimensions, in what could have been the weapons rooms, or rooms aiming other representative functions. The grandeur is given by the volume of the spaces, by the proportions, by the light, by the colours of the walls, by the simplicity of the panelling of tiles. Anyone who imagines that the palatial appearance comes from artistic and decorative treasures of baroque taste will be disappointed. No. None of that. Of paintings, I remember only a few, namely a series of portraits of ancestors, a little furniture, but everything breathes dignity.”

“Of course, all these are images that have only one parallel, and these quotes could have been taken from The Leopard, by Lampedusa, and the film of the same name, by Visconti. If there is a house in Portugal that could serve as a setting or inspire this novel, it would be the Palácio dos Condes de Ficalho [Palácio Ficalho], in Serpa. For all this, and more, I can say: this is the most beautiful house in Portugal.”

Anísio Franco,“A Mais Bela Casa de Portugal,” L+Arte Magazine, 2000 

Sophia de Mello Breyner Andresen, poet


Around the light
With shadows and whites
The house sought herself

My hands almost touch
The soft breath
Of its pure attention

Poem about this house that Sophia de Mello Breyner Andresen added to a letter she wrote to the couple António Martim and Mariazinha de Mello, of whom she was a cousin and friend.


For the love of the house

“We went in. Nine meters high, vaulted ceilings, tiled floors covered with large carpets of dark coir, lime walls covered in tile… The Palácio Ficalho preserves in its interior an austerity of Alentejo rusticity, mixed with the sophistication of a summer manor house. The terraces hover over the village, bringing to the interior the vastness of an inland plain. We are back to the time of the hunters, whose trophies are still placed on the walls of the entrance hall, in line with the paintings of the ancestors. The house receives and welcomes.”

“The presence of the Count of Ficalho hovers. Matilde slowly began to organize photographs, originals, scattered papers, now on display in a gallery. It could become a museum space. Maria do Mar brings a gramophone with old recordings (…) During lunch, Vicente, 15, had said: “Sometimes we seem to hear noises. This house is so big, you can be scared.” Her mother had explained: “When I was little, I was also afraid, I thought there were ghosts. You must tell them: I am also a Mello. Meet me. I am here in the twenty-first century.”

Ana Soromenho, “Por amor à casa”, Expresso, 10.09.2017 


Excerpt from a letter

“Lovely day. Serpa, beautifully picturesque land. Solar Ficalho with great air, weapons room, high terrace dominating the entire region, walls, etc. Everything a little abandoned — but comfortable, and even with art furniture!”

Excerpt from a letter of Eça de Queirós to his wife Emília de Castro, 1898