Photography: © Jerónimo Heitor Coelho
As a result of the state of abandonment the building was in when it was purchased by Vasco Maria Eugénio de Almeida, little remains of the garden of the Counts of Basto although a few features are preserved: the noria, the casa de fresco (cool pavilion), the fountain, the centrepiece, and the chapel, adjacent to the garden wall.
As part of the conservation and restoration works carried out in 1958, this exterior space was linked to the palace building in accordance with the function of a garden of a 16th-century noble residence influenced by Humanism and the Renaissance. This was the natural result of the interest shown in the remodelling project by Vasco Maria Eugénio de Almeida, his rigorous effort and research, and his sensibility.
Similar to that which was common as regards palace gardens of Renaissance Portugal, this is an enclosed, walled space, with a tranquil and intimate atmosphere, mainly designed for leisure pursuits but also containing a vegetable garden, and it may thus be described as a horto de recreio or leisure garden. Its productive role is indicated by the presence of citrus fruit trees, in particular, orange trees, which are a feature of all 16th-century gardens, appreciated for their aesthetic beauty, colour, aroma and the shade they provide.
It is interesting to note that the combination of the aesthetic and productive aspects of the leisure garden is reflected, for example, in the layout of the flowerbeds and in the design of some elements of the irrigation system: the water tank leads to the cool pavilion and the belvedere from where the garden may be viewed in its entirety with the landscape. "The water tank — a reflecting pool — assumes a key role in the layout of the garden, surrounded by a number of constructions that enable the user to sit and enjoy the cool setting; in exquisite cases, [like the Paço de São Miguel] the cool pavilion adjoins the tank" .
The grotto or cool pavilion at the western end of the garden provided a place for people to sit and talk, relax and enjoy the surroundings during the hot season. It is kept cool by virtue of being set under the water tank and having a small fountain inside, while the interior wall are inlaid with decorative elements.
"Inlaying may be described as the technique of crimping or imbricating various materials into mortar, providing a coating for the walls and ceilings of a wide array of types of architectural structure in order to provide scenographic effects and singular adornment which is sometimes crude and naive and some sophisticated and erudite”. Materials of a range of types in terms of type, form and provenance were used, either intact or in fragments, such as shells, sponges, beads, shards of glass, bits of porcelain, earthenware, mosaic or tile, stones, crystals, fossils, corals, concretions, and other unusual materials such as horses’ teeth. Such ornamental compositions and multi-material coatings adorn sacred and secular spaces and are closely associated with a garden environment which is designed to delight the senses, lining frescoed buildings, fountains, waterfalls, tanks, backrests, grottoes, nymphaea, niches, benches, borders and hanging baskets, and decorating the walls and ceilings of hermitages, convent walls and palace interiors. They may be erudite or popular in character, refined or rough, and may display or signify ostentation, luxury or eccentricity and, in some monastic contexts, material detachment" .
The association of this garden with the Renaissance leisure garden is further enhanced by the twin horseshoe-arched window in Manueline-Mudejar style set in one of the buildings that delimits the enclosure to the west. It is the product of the extensive building works carried out in the 20th century, an architectural feature which was salvaged at the time of the demolition of the old Morgados Pegas manor or solar, located in the Rua da República. It is possible that the window originally came from Dom Manuel’s Palace, features of which were removed on several occasions.
 André Lourenço e Silva - Conservação e restauro de embrechados - VIII Jornadas de Arte e Ciência: Conservação e Restauro de Artes Decorativas de Aplicação Arquitectónica [Online]. Prof. Doutor Gonçalo Vasconcelos e Sousa, coord., 2012. p. 167. Available in WWW: <http://www.artes.ucp.pt>.