With Whitney and Ethan visiting us, we decided to head south to visit the Aliança Underground Museum. The art museum has been integrated into several underground rooms and passageways that are part of the Aliança winery, which itself is part of the Bacalhôa group of vineyards and wineries. It provides an opportunity to combine wine tasting and art appreciation. The art on display comes from the larger Berado collection.
The Underground Museum is located at Rua do Comércio 444, in Sangalhos, just south of Agueda. It is 89km south of Porto, so about a one hour drive via the Auto-Expressway. Guided tours are available daily, at 10.00am, 11.30am, 2.30pm and 4.00pm and are available in Portuguese, English, Spanish and French. Each tour lasts for 90 minutes and includes a sparkling wine tasting at the end. It is advisable to reserve a tour in advance, to ensure you get the preferred language tour. We left it late and only made contact the day before, but we were able to secure places on an English tour. For contact details, click this link.
African art is the first attraction of the tour, starting with terracotta funerary urns from the Babur Bura people, in Niger. Many of the urns are of a phallic shape and are understood to have been placed above the graves of men. Some of the round urns are believed to represent breasts and would have been placed above women’s graves. Some vases have effigies attached to them. Some background information on Bura funerary urns can be found here.
Next up was a lovely collection of African art, including some exquisite masks and head-dresses, as well as a variety of carved figures and musical instruments. As a lover of African art, this was my favourite part of the tour.
Still on the theme of African art, we moved into a section displaying stone sculptures by the Shona artists of Zimbabwe. As an owner of several Shona sculptures myself, this was another interesting section for me. Whilst I prefer life-like sculptures, these were all of the abstract style that is popular in Shona art.
Next up was Ethan’s favourite exhibit – a large collection of minerals and crystals. They were all mounted on the walls of a long tunnel-shaped room. Ethan’s favourite piece was a beautifully coloured chunk of Labradorite, so now I need to get a piece for his collection 🙂
There was also a small, but interesting section dedicated to fossils.
A collection of azulejo tiles was spread throughout several rooms that we passed through, during the tour. Each of these rooms can be rented for private functions.
The Tunnel of Espumante is lined with sparkling wine bottles, that are illuminated from behind. There is also a dramatic wall of rose quartz with back lighting.
Having passed through the tunnel, we arrived at two adjacent rooms displaying ceramics – Bordalo I and Bordalo II. These colourful and intricate ceramics were all made in Portugal.
The tour then deviated from the art collections to pass through the brandy cellars, where we were told how the different brandies are made. We were informed about the process for making sparkling wines.
The final art collection was themed Indian Culture and was in two adjacent rooms. The first room featured mostly photographic art by generations of the same Indian family, including Vivan Sunderam, Umrao Singh Sher-Gil and Amrita Sher-Gil. The second room paid homage to the life of Mahatma Gandhi and the religion/culture of India.
The last stop of the tour was the tasting room, where we got to sample a variety of sparkling wines and some sangria. Having enjoyed some of the offerings, we moved next door to the sales room, where we picked up a few bottles to take home. It was a very enjoyable visit and we were impressed by the wide knowledge of our tour guide, Eduardo. I highly recommend the Underground Museum.