Ferraria de São João

Aldeia com grande pedalada

To enter this village is to discover a future in constant change.

A caprinicultura ainda é uma das principais atividades desta comunidade, fazendo uso dos currais comunitários, que são uma das marcas identitárias desta aldeia.

The scenic and cultural richness of the village is all too evident. The mutual support and close relations between the inhabitants are the inheritance of a deeply rural nature. Nevertheless, this is something that is not frozen in time. The new inhabitants who have settled here over the years, running businesses or simply here for the lifestyle, have changed the face of the village and stimulated a new energy among the people. Ferraria, as they call it for short, has opened up to the world without ceasing to be itself. The changes in the village, whether by the Schist Villages Network or local agents or the Municipality, reflect what is most characteristic and genuine about the place and what it has to offer.

In Ferraria de São João, ruralness and active tourism go hand in hand. The village has a number of aspects that distinguish it from others: a magnificent cork oak forest, many traditional animal pens, a Schist Trail, a mountain biking centre, a FunTrail for children, and many walking trails to discover.



Perched on a quartzite ridge at the extreme southern end of the Serra da Lousã, here we discover how schist and quartz marry in a union so perfect that it could only happen in Ferraria de São João. The predominant building material is quartzite, although the facades of some buildings are rendered and painted white.

The village has a central, more compact core. The buildings are generally aligned along the village streets and a large number of animal pens are grouped together at one end of the village.

This is the perfect backdrop to the village’s jewel: a group of communal animal pens on the edge of a vast and magical cork oak forest. One of the most visible and successful projects of the Residents Association, revived by the new inhabitants, is the adoption of cork oaks.


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Know the village


The urban structures in the village are an example of its eminently rural existence in which agriculture and subsistence pastoralism predominate. The buildings show the strong influence of vernacular architecture, dominated by local materials – wood, schist, limestone and quartzite. The majority of the houses reflect this rural touch, with two floors, the ground floor for storage and animals, and the upper floor for residential use. Similarly, although the animal pens are generally of unrendered stone, the upper floors are mainly rendered and painted, reflecting a demand for greater comfort in the residential part. These characteristics give Ferraria de São João a unique ambience.

Worth a visit:

  • Chapel of São João
    A small chapel of austere lines, without any exterior decoration.

  • Wayside shrine
    A small niche in the wall lining the street that descends to the centre of the village, with the inscription in cement MS 1969. It contains a painting on metal depicting souls in Purgatory.

  • Wayside shrine near the north exit
    With the inscription JT 1925 carved in limestone. It also contains a metal plate which once bore a painting.

  • Animal pens
    The group of animal pens may be one of the largest in good condition still extant in Portugal. The village formerly possessed a communal flock which once numbered over a thousand head. It was in these animal pens that each owner kept his livestock.

  • Threshing floor
    Near one of the streets in the centre of the village there remains a threshing floor in good condition. Its floor is made from slabs of limestone, a more easily worked material than the local quartzite.


The siting of this village was influenced by the existence of an area of almost flat farmland that stretches in front of it.

The road, of beaten earth, came to the village in 1961. Until that year, people, animals and goods moved along simple footpaths to Avelar, Espinhal and Figueiró dos Vinhos, where the inhabitants went to sell their produce.

The road arrived at a time when the village reached the peak of its growth: about 40 homes, many of them inhabited by a couple and a huge brood of children, from whom natural selection would choose those who would perpetuate the life of sacrifice of their predecessors. There were difficulties - for which the road was an escape route – resulting in the departure of its inhabitants starting at the beginning of the 1960s.

Today, with the arrival of new owners with new ideas who have changed its destiny, Ferraria de São João is an exemplary case of a twenty-first century village.


Rather than nature in the village, this village is at one with nature. The majestic cork oak forest serves as a backdrop to the flank of the village that rises up the quartzite hillside. In the valley in front of the village, either from the ground or from the numerous springs, issue trickles of water that give rise to the Ribeira das Ferrarias, which will later flow impetuously into the Ribeira de Alge. The latter passes beside the Schist Village of Casal de São Simão on its way to the river Zêzere, which receives it, now transformed into the Castelo do Bode reservoir.

The mountains, still densely populated by original flora species such as the chestnut, contrast with the plains with their poor soils and sparse vegetation, from which here and there rise significant uplands that dominate the landscape and make it distinctive.  The fauna in the area is very varied: several species of reptiles, mammals and birds abound.


The village is located in the southern part of the Serra da Lousã, known locally as the Serra do Espinhal, also called the Serra de São João - and named in documents dating from the time of the founding of Portugal as Serro Agudo.

Ferraria de São João is built at the bottom of a slope, between an area of rocky outcrops and deposits, and the rich soils that characterise this moderate altitude valley. The village extends along this strip, avoiding sacrificing the land that was always crucial for its survival.

Stories and Facts

Junto a uma das ruas do centro da aldeia ainda existe uma eira, em bom estado de conservação, cujo pavimento é em lajes de calcário.

Origin of the name
The name “Ferraria” is very probably linked to the former existence of small-scale iron workings. “São João” refers either to the Serra de São João, which encircles the village, or to the existence - on the hillside a little above the village – of a chapel dedicated to St. John. Hills where, not far away, stands the Chapel of São João do Deserto.

Memories of the great communal flock
Ferraria de São João always had its communal flock. The inhabitants say that in the first half of the 20th century the flock numbered over a thousand head, mostly goats. Every day, at daybreak when the doors of the animal pens were opened, that body of a thousand head formed up and climbed the mountain in search of pasture. For every 15 head an owner possessed, he was obliged to accompany the flock for one day. If he possessed 30, he would have to accompany it for two days and so on. Today, the 20 to 30 strong flock continues to follow the same tracks.

When, in the first half of the 20th century, the slopes of the mountains swarmed with the village’s thousand-strong flock, it was an attraction for packs of wolves. From attacks by large lone wolves to attacks by a pack of seven in 1940, the memories of the older inhabitants still include moments of fear and anger.

A curious common

The approximately two hectares where around 200 cork oaks and the group of traditional animal pens are situated is a common and therefore owned by all the village community. But the cork oaks are not part of the common as they are owned by various proprietors. The animal pens are also not on the common, and each has an owner.


Remedy for cobrão, still used in Ferraria de São João. Cobrão is the local name for shingles (Herpes zoster), a skin rash caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox.
It’s cobra or cobrão or sapoulo or sapolão.
I pierce a hole in you, in the healthy part, in the root of the pimple and

you won’t spread, you won’t come back,
where you are, there you will die.
This remedy should be effected with a wooden skewer, previously sharpened with a knife, making successive signs of the cross on the site of the shingles.

In the time of the gaivotas

Gaivotas or counterpoise lifts - rustic devices used to raise water from the many wells that exist in the valley – are a symbol of times past when irrigating crops - mainly potatoes and maize – was dependent on human muscle power that ensured survival or provided some wealth to the inhabitants.


Penela municipality has a significant speleological heritage. Situated to the south of the source of the river Dueça and a stone’s throw from the EN 110 in the Taliscas area, the Algarinho and Talismã Caves are considered the largest caves in Portugal and are much visited by caving groups from all parts.

History of Penela municipality

Penela municipality is said to have been founded even before the emergence of Portugal as a nation. It obtained its first charter in July 1137, granted by King Afonso Henriques, making it one of the oldest municipalities in the country. This fact reflects the great strategic importance of Penela during the Reconquest. In the light of studies of existing remains, it is believed that the origin of Penela Castle was as a Lusitanian castro later developed by the Romans during their conquest in the 1st century B.C. The history of Penela is also believed to be associated with successive incursions by the Vandals, who destroyed the fortress built by the Romans; the Moors, who took Penela Castle in the 8th century; and the troops of Ferdinand the Great (King of Leon). The fortification came into the possession of Count Sesnando, the first Governor of Coimbra (following the Reconquest in 1064), to whom we owe the construction of a strong medieval castle in inside the existing Moorish fortress.


  • Permanent inhabitants: 10 to 50

  • Name of inhabitants: Ferreiros

  • Patron Saint: St. John the Baptist

  • Iconic feature: Cork oak forest


  • Goat’s cheese
  • Kid
  • Horticultural produce

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Contacts and Information

Ferraria de São João, Penela 
Getting Here:
De Norte e de Sul
Na A1 sair na saída 10 (Pombal) na direcção de Castelo Branco pelo IC8. Passados 31,5km sair para o IC3 no sentido Norte em direcção a Condeixa. Ao fim de 5,5km virar à direita para a Ferraria de S.João. Subir 6km até chegar à Aldeia.

De Espanha (A25)
Na A23 sair na saída 18 para o IC8, na de direcção Pombal/Sertã. Ao fim de 77km sair no nó do Avelar para Condeixa, pelo IC3. Ao fim de 5,5km virar à direita para a Ferraria de S.João. Subir 6km até chegar à Aldeia.



Câmara Municipal de Penela

Praça do Município
3230 Penela 
(+351) 239 560 120

Posto de Turismo de Penela

(+351) 239 561 132

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