< PORTUGAL | LUSO: Palace Hotel do Bussaco
Set amidst the Bussaco National Forest, a 250 acres centuries-old walled forest planted by the Order of the Barefoot Carmelites in the 17th Century, the Palace Hotel of Bussaco was originally intended as a summer residence and hunting lodge for the King of Portugal, Carlos I. This magical forest with collection of 700 varieties of trees, including 300 exotic species many of which were collected all over the world by the Portuguese Navigators, was also the battle site in 1810 when the Duke of Wellington defeated Napoleon's troops.
The Palace housing the hotel was built between 1888 and 1907 by the Italian architect and National Opera House stage designer Luigi Manini, brought to Portugal by Queen Maria Pia
of Savoy, Charles’s mother, and daughter of Victor Emmanuel II of Italy. He designed a romantic palace in Neo-Manueline gothic style, evoking the 16th-century architectural style
that characterized the peak of the Portuguese Age of Discovery.
It was constructed on the site of the former convent. Part of the convent, including the small church with Baroque altarpieces are still preserved within the complex. Manini was succeeded by architects Nicola Bigaglia, José Alexandre Soares and Manuel Joaquim Norte Júnior, the latter responsible for the annex “Casa dos Brasões” (House of the Coat-of-Arms), and also for the extraordinary Curia Palace and for the renowned “Café a Brasileira”, in Lisbon.
The palace was erected as a conventional brick construction and later encased with other types of rock, mainly limestone from a nearby quarry, sandstone from nearby Ançã, and marble from Vila Viçosa, in the Alentejo. The forest also provided essential conifers, oak, and chestnut premium quality woods.
The inner rooms are richly decorated with Neo-Manueline portals and stucco work imitating Manueline rib vaulting, being also an important showcase of Portuguese painting and sculpture of the early 20th century. The inner walls are also decorated with tile “azulejos” - panels by Jorge Colaço, depicting scenes from Portugal’s colourful maritime history, Battle of Buçaco, and "Lusiadas", the Portuguese epic poem by Luis de Camões.
However, this palace never had the opportunity to welcome its King. In 1908, just one year after the building was completed, Carlos I was assassinated in Lisbon as he travelled in an open carriage. Visits by the Portuguese Royal family members occured just once when Carlos’ son, King Manuel II stayed there during one summer accompanied by French actress Gaby Deslys.
In 1910, after the royal family went into exile in England, king's Swiss chef Paul Bergamin obtained government permission to turn the palace into a hotel and in 1911 it opens its doors as a hotel for the first time. Alexandre de Almeida family took over and holds the management ever since the 1917.
Hotel still feature many of the original sumptuous antique furnishings, valuable paintings by notable artists and magnificent historical glazed tiles. Hotel restaurant, one of the finest, offers classic French and Portuguese cuisine and has a must on its exclusive world-class Bussaco wines.
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