The estate is 10 minutes from Póvoa de Lanhoso and 40 minutes from Porto and Francisco de Sá Carneiro Airport.
The blue-tile palace consists of four towers, one at each corner, rising three stories high; and four wings, each with two floors. The main façade is recessed to integrate the great hall and its balcony. The interiors have retained all their original splendor: exotic wood floors, vaulted and coffered ceilings, frescoed walls, and hand-carved wood and marble finishes.
The centerpiece of the great hall is an imperial staircase ascending three stories. The first flight leads to a landing supported by a handcrafted wood balustrade topped with classical stone columns. From there, a double staircase rises to another columned landing crowned with a magnificent ceiling dome. This design evokes the staircase in one of the world’s most beautiful—and famous—bookstores: Livraria Lello in Porto.
It’s thought that the magnificent, circa-1906 neo-Gothic building and its signature crimson staircase (designed by Portuguese engineer Francisco Xavier Esteves) inspired two locales in the Harry Potter book and film franchise, Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and the Flourish & Blotts bookshop.
The silver screen finally captured Quinta Villa Beatriz itself in the 2005 film Espelho Mágico (Magic Mirror), a surrealist satire about religion and the class system, shot on location at the estate. The film was directed by Manoel de Oliveira, Portugal’s greatest filmmaker, who died in 2015 at the age of 106. The film was based on a novel by celebrated Portuguese writer Agustina Bessa-Luís. The production brought together other cultural icons, including its stars, the legendary French actor Michel Piccoli and de Oliveira’s muse, the acclaimed Portuguese actress Leonor Silveira.
The film was an official selection of the 2005 Venice International Film Festival, where critics wondered whether the majestic, blue, four-tower palace and its idyllic gardens were real or a product of Manoel de Oliveira’s lyrically surreal imagination.
Villa Beatriz itself is classified as a Monument of Public Interest by the Instituto de Gestão do Património Arquitectónico e Arqueológico (IGESPAR). It was built at the end of the 19th century by Francisco Antunes Guimarães, to honor his fiancée, Beatriz, who tragically died in her native Brazil before ever setting foot on the property. VIlla Beatriz was completed in 1906 and has remained in the Guimarães family ever since. In 1991, the property was restored to its original grandeur by Francisco Antunes’ descendent Carmen Guimarães.
Surrounding the house are formal gardens planted with flowers and century-old trees. The outdoor swimming pool is built from local granite. The gardens lead down to a private, sandy beach on the River Ave.
Just beyond the house are the Vinho Verde vineyards and the commercial winery, which is housed in Casa Nova, one of the estate’s original farm buildings, built in 1898. The modern wine-production facility is a turnkey operation with an oenology lab, stainless-steel vat room, cellar, bottling plant, and tasting room. The estate’s two labels produce several award-winning varieties of Vinho Verde wines, including Loureiro, Trajadura, and Pedrenã. The remaining land is devoted to the dairy farm, agricultural buildings, pastures, and forestry.
It is worth watching Magic Mirror, not just for the story of Alfreda (played by de Oliveira’s muse, Leonor Silveira), and its eternal themes of spirituality and mortality, but also for its beguiling soundtrack, which features Camille Saint-Saëns’ symphonic poem Danse Macabre. Above all, de Oliveira’s film mirrors the magic of this blue dream palace in the heart of the Minho.