To the Easternmost reaches of the city of Porto, perched on the slope of the cliff-side, overlooking the Douro river rests a jewel of baroque of the country. Like much of the baroque in Porto, Palácio do Freixo was indeed designed by the prolific architect Niccolò Nasoni, but as if by law, his work will stand out from all other buildings surrounding it; this palace follows this law to a T.
Grandiose and pompous, this palace of fine baroque stock was commissioned by the Távora family in the first half of the 1700s, and they were in fact the ones to have brought Nasoni to the city in the first place. Nasoni spared no resource, for these were very rich patrons, before they fell out of favour (with many members executed and imprisoned after an alleged attempt of regicide), and erected a mighty palace with four towers, and four façades, all different from each other. The palace was sold and resold to many rich merchants and noblemen throughout the 19th century, and had a soap factory annexed to it. This factory was however destroyed in a fire. The tall red building that stands beside it used to be an industrial mill, which was also built in the half of the same century, after parts of the gardens were sold to the Harmonia company. After it had been in disrepair since 1910, renovations began in the brave new 21st century and was then, as it is today, given in concession to the Pestana group who have set up a hostel in the style of the pousadas of Portugal.
Palácio do Freixo has predominantly baroque décor, at the time painted by Niccolò Nasoni himself, although unfortunately not much of the original work is left; nevertheless some stunning neoclassical flairs, with gilded ornaments and columns are present throughout the palace. Also gilded are the frames of the many mirrors and paintings, befitting of the noble background of this palace. What may be rather surprising is finding that one of the rooms has Arabesque arches, as well as floral and diamond patterns in that same style, no doubt fulfilling the horror vacui so characteristic to this aesthetic. Outside, there are Italian renaissance-style gardens both above the palace and overlooking the ever enthralling Douro river. Today, the Freixo Palace offers fine dining and sleeping to be done over at the restaurant and hostel respectively, in one of the prettiest spots in the country.
From noble habitation to factory office, and now hotel, this palace has gone through it all, narrowly dodging a fire throughout its history. The first among the almost innumerable impressions that Nasoni left on the city if Porto, is certainly also among the best, and is still a spot of harmonious serenity worth at least one of your afternoons!
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