Elegant but unintimidating, this airy twin-terraced casa is a privileged place to stay. In the maze-like centre of fascinating Tavira – near the old fish market, 15 minutes from the ferry to Ilha da Tavira’s sandy beaches – is a fine 19th-century townhouse exquisitely restored by an architect owner. Italian Paola has kept the traditional ceilings, wood and mosaic floors; intact too is the paintwork on the doors, their refined colours matched with walls of burnished lime render: the effect is stunning. There are three suites (one with the bed on the mezzanine, another with a spectacular ceiling), a classic double and a cosy studio with neat kitchenette and windows onto the patio. Don’t expect total quiet; do expect relaxation in a private apartment surrounded by Portuguese life, and cafés, shops and restaurants serving fish so fresh it tastes of the sea. Barbecue up on the leafy roof terrace with panoramic views of terracotta rooftops and palm-fringed river front; if you’re feeling nomadic, you can bed down and sleep under the stars. A rare gem.