When José Saramago said this of Tavira it was because he had been unable to find anyone to show him round what he wanted to see. Something he complains of quite a bit in his ‘Journal to Portugal‘. telhados-de-quatro-aguasI don’t know if he ever did return as he gave up in the book to visit Luz, but I’m sure that most people who visit Tavira once will like José want to return. It is a very pretty town, albeit it’s reputation as the prettiest town in the Algarve does mean it can get inundated with tourists. Most visiting to walk across the ‘Roman’ bridge (it isn’t really Roman!) and to admire the Tavira roofs. And it is to the roofs that I return today for my November ‘Past meets Present‘.

Nearly every book from our Algarvian library apart from José’s mentions the Tavira roofs, so it was easy to find past photographs. As we are not yet back in the Algarve, however, I have not been able to take a modern shot from quite the same angle. However as you can see I have plenty of similar ones!

They are known locally as ‘Telhados de Quatro Águas’, and once were as common in Faro as they are in Tavira. Much of Faro old district though seems to have disappeared under modern builds and so it is now only Tavira which is known on the tourist routes for its hipped roofs.  What I hadn’t quite realised until today though that each room has its own roof, so even the smallest of buildings will have multiple roofs. Next time you are up on the castle walls why not work out how many rooms each house has by the number of roofs! Some look ‘oriental’ with their pagoda finish, whilst others with balustrades look very grand.

Not only are these structures a stunning feature of Tavira but they also have a purpose. The Tourism website advises that they enable ‘free air circulation in rooms, making them cooler in summer and warmer in winter by keeping the cold away’. It seems a double-shame therefore that so many of the new builds and renovation projects do not seem to be re-creating them. I guess the complex construction of these roofs is too expensive these days.

I do hope what currently exists still exists in 50 years, and that our photographs of today do not end up as only memories. Talking of which don’t forget to share your Past meets Present collection this month.