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  • Writer's pictureJefferson Graham

The guitar like instruments of Portugal

Viola de Amarante is from the Douro Litoral region

Every region of the world has its own unique music, whether that be Spain and Flamenco, the accordion of Italy or the waltz of Vienna.

In Portugal, that music is called Fado, a form of folk music with expressive singing, usually accompanied by a pear shaped, mandolin styled instrument called the “Portuguese Guitar,” or Fado Guitar. Any visitor to Portugal will be encouraged to visit a local restaurant with a Fado show.

On our recent trip to

Lisbon and Porto, we did just that, but what really fascinated me were the other unique, local instruments, which I saw on display at the amazing Casa de Guitarra shop in Porto, which showcases local music.

They look like guitars, and they play like them too, but have you ever seen a guitar like this?

Brago Viola

A Closeup of the Brago Viola, a stringer instrument that looks similar to a guitar, but with different tuning and strings.

These instruments are called “Violas,” in Portugal, and are not to be confused with the stringed instrument we usually think of as a larger violin. The Poprtugal viola have different looks to represent different regions. For instance, the Brago Viola, is used in the Douro and Minho regions, while the Viola Toeira is popular in Coimbra.

My favorite, the Viola de Amarante, is from the Douro Litoral region, and the two hearts, according to Casa de Guitarra, “are believed to be linked to a love story involving a medieval troubadour.” It has ten strings altogether, with the two treble pair being tuned in unison and the three bass pairs are tuned in octaves.

Viola Beiroa

Above is the Viola Campaniça, which is popular in the district of Castelo Branco and also has 12 strings.

Stupidly, I ran out of room and couldn’t bring one home, even though I really wanted to purchase every last instrument on display. I’ve reached out to the store via e-mail to see if I can purchase one and have it shipped to California. Keep your fingers crossed for me!

If you make it to Porto, the Casa Da Guitarra shop is right across the street from that wild Steak N’ Shake in the heart of town.

The #Photowalk Porto gallery is available for viewing here:  and the #Photowalk videos from Lisbon and Porto will be posted soon.

ICYMI, here’s the first installment of our Europe Photowalks, from Madrid.

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