Backed by the Serra do Marão mountains and overlooking the wide valley of the River Douro, the peaceful town of Peso da Régua is the official centre of the Port wine growing region. From here, barrels of wine were traditionally transported to Vila Nova de Gaia in the past using wooden sailing ships called rabelos. Today, the journey is made by road using specially-adapted tankers. The attractive Manueline church of São Nicolau in the charming village of Mesão Frio (12 km from Peso da Régua) features late 16th-century ceiling panels. The tourist office and town hall are housed in the 18th-century cloisters of a former Franciscan monastery. 8 km to the east of Régua, excavations of a Roman settlement can be found at Canelas, near Covalinhas Check as well the stained-glass windows of the Casa do Douro, invoking the history and production of Port wine. Also displayed is a fine map of the Douro Valley drawn in the mid-19th century by Baron Joseph Forrester, an enterprising Englishman who reformed the port trade after joining his uncle s wine company in Oporto.
It is thought that the town´s name originated from the name of a Roman house that once stood here - the "Villa Reguela". Its great development was, however, only to begin after 1756 with the creation of the Real Companhia Geral da Agricultura das Vinhas do Alto Douro (Royal Company of Vine-Growers from the Alto Douro Region), which set up the world s first ever demarcated region for wine production. Situated on the banks of the River Douro, Peso da Régua played a fundamental role in the production and sale of Port wine, for it was from here that the barrels were transported in the special boats known as barcos rabelos to Vila Nova de Gaia, where the wine was left to age in the local wine lodges. In this region, the vines are grown on terraced slopes leading down to the river, providing visitors with a series of spectacular views, which are best admired from the area s many viewpoints, such as those of São Leonardo at Galafura and Santo António do Loureiro. In the surrounding area, the spa of Caldas de Moledo, which is situated on the right bank of the River Douro, has its own moorage points and is a most delightful place for those wishing to spend a relaxing holiday.