At the top of the hill an old concrete sign points down the narrow tarmac road that winds its way down to Simantorta. The village is located on the south-facing side of the Ribeira da Simantorta. A collection of old xisto cottages, several with dates going back to the 18th century carved into the lintels, forms the old village, with newer houses built around. Many of the older houses have verandahs. Several of the streets narrow to only 1m in width, and there are many small gardens and terraces amongst the houses. The little chapel is dedicated to Nossa Senhora da Piedade. The old altar with paintings from the 18th century was unfortunately lost some time ago: however, down in the little square in the old village there is a little shrine with painted backboards, now faded, that shows a glimpse of religious artwork from the time of the altar.
Below the village there were once five maize mills, although today only one remains, and is not in use.
An old olive press, dating from 1781, has been converted into a ‘rural tourism house’ with 6 rooms for accommodation. The owner of the establishment cooks regional food for her guests that she grows herself.
Besides making a living through agriculture, the inhabitants of Simantorta also worked in the mines of Roda Cimeira. They used to come home only at weekends, and many died young because of the dust. Some also worked at Cabreira as miners, or panning for gold in the river. Many inhabitants moved away to Lisbon, and sometimes the women were left behind in the village with the men only coming home once every year or so. The local inhabitants also collected pine resin that was sold to the industry in Chã de Alvares for making turpentine, and collected wood for making charcoal. This was occasionally the cause of quarrels between neighbours, that had to be taken to tribunal at Arganil or Alvares to be settled. In order to prevent these quarrels occurring, the “Commisão Zeladora pelos Interesses de Simantorta” was established, that eventually became, in 1950, the Commission of Improvements. The commission has overseen many developments in the village, including the opening of a mine in the Vale das Figueiras to provide more water for the village, and more recently, the building of a fine Casa do Convivio.
There are two stories about the origin of the village’s name:
The first says that once a man from outside came and asked a beautiful young girl of the village to marry him. She refused, but as she saw him leaving the village she called for him to come back. However, he answered her - “Agora, simantorta!” (a local dialect expression meaning “it’s too late, you have not been straight with me!”).
The second account says that the first man to settle in the region of Simantorta was called Simão, and his wife was known as Torta. Henceforth the village, as it grew, was referred to as Simão e da Torta, that became Simão-Torta, and in time, Simantorta.
The community of Simantorta have also developed a community website, that has more information about the village and its activities.