Portugal and Alentejo
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Check-in at the Casa do Terreiro do Poço, in Borba, Portugal, Friday night and the next day after a good breakfast, set off to explore Vila Viçosa, so named for being born in a lush valley.
Map of Vila Viçosa
At the entrance of the village, coming from Borba, is the Ducal Palace, former residence of the Dukes of Bragança (open Saturday and Sunday 09h30 - 13h00, 14h30 - 18h00) which has 50 visitable rooms. The main facade is coated with the region's marbles and is inspired by Italian Renaissance architecture, with three floors, each corresponding, from the ground-floor to top floor, to one of the classical orders: Doric, Ionic and Corinthian being the ground floor where you will find the collections of Decorative Arts: paintings, sculpture, furniture, tapestries, ceramics and jewelry, which include seventeenth-century tiles and mural paintings, painted coffered ceilings, marble fireplaces with elaborate decorative programs. The kitchen where the visit ends, leaves an indelible impression due to its size and the amount of copper utensils on show.
During this visit you can still see:
Armory - collections of weapons covering a wide period, from the fifteenth to the nineteenth century and that includes the gun fired by Prince D. Luis Filipe on the Regicide. Chinese Porcelain - about 100 pieces of blue and white porcelain of great beauty, from the XVI-XVII centuries. Treasure - a collection that began with the Cross of Vila Viçosa, precious receptacle of a fragment of the Holy Cross, work performed between 1656 and 1673 by Philip Vallejo, by order of the Duke D. John II (John IV of Portugal), that was joined by more than 170 unique pieces of jewelry that gives the visitor a glimpse into a core of jewellry from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the golden age of the art in Portugal. Coaches - the largest and most varied collection that brings together Europe's 80 cars - coaches, litters, and Berlins caradaus from the XVII to XX and numerous harnesses.
In the square in front of the Ducal Palace also sits:
Igreja dos Agostinhos - Pantheon of the Dukes (XI century), the Igreja das Chagas - Pantheon of the Duchess (XVI), the Convento das Chagas and the Paço do Bispo (Bishops Palace) - where the Archive of the House of Braganza rests and the Tapada Real (Royal Hunting ground) whose Access is through the Porta de S. Bento (eighteenth century) - and that is a walled area of about 1500 hectares, dominated by cork and holm oak, with a large population of deer. There are also foxes, wild boars, badgers and corkscrew tails, as well as partridges, hoopoes, white storks, and several species of birds of prey.
After such a vast visit, we recommend a good lunch with the region's specialties: a mixed boiled meat and cabbage, a good broad bean stew, cold gazpacho (soup) or grilled sardines or cod depending on the season or why not fried spare ribs with Alentejo migas, accompanied by a good wine from the region's many wineyards and to end, the delicious almond and pumpkin Tibornas".
We suggest now you walk up the Avenida da Estação to the Museu do Mármore, Marble Museum - (Tuesday to Saturday: 9.00 - 12.30, 14.00h - 17.30h), housed in a disused railway station, which dates from 1904. From the extraction processing of marble, through the presentation of objects and tools used, the Museum offers visitors valuable information about past and present of an activity that dates back to Roman times.
In the old Rua dos Fidalgos, which runs from the Palace Square to the Praça Nova, called Praça da República today, you can see the Palaces of the Sanches de Baena, and Silveiros Meneses. The Praça da República, heart of the village, is surrounded by elegant buildings like the Palace of the Sousa da Câmara and the Town Hall where you can visit and consult the library of old books and the important historic collection of the Town Hall, which also includes the Mercy's, consisting of about 2,000 books, manuscripts, packets and loose documents dating from the fifteenth to the ninteenth century.
On the Avenida dos Duques de Bragança that goes alongside the wall from the Agostinhos you can see the Convento and Igreja de Nossa Senhora da Esperança that was founded in 1553 by the Duchess of Braganza, D. Isabel de Lencastre (sixteenth century), and through one of the most beautiful and elegant pillories (sixteenth century) that exist in Portugal. Continuing on Avenida Duque de Bragança you will arrive at the Vila Viçosa Castle (closed Saturday and Sunday in September) where you can visit the Museu de Arqueologia which exhibits in various rooms of the ground floor artifacts of all ages, with emphasis on the Roman times - especially pottery - found in the region and the Museu da Caça - one of best and most unique hunting museums around the world.
If you still have time and energy you can still see:
Of Borba's mansions still stand out: the Palace of the Azambuja Matos in the Praça Martim Afonso de Sousa, that reminds the Italian loggias, the Casa dos Machados and the Casa dos Mascarenhas. Outside the urban area deserves special mention Casa de Peixinhos.
Of it's churches - Igreja de Nossa Senhora da Conceição - Patroness of Portugal. - Igreja da Misericórdia, (XVI) where you can see a collection of religious art, gilded works and tiles that make up the inside. - The Convento dos Capuchos (Igreja de Nossa Senhora da Piedade, baroque facade, dating from 1556).
Now is the time to stock up on quality local products like wine, smoked spicy sausages, olive oil, cheese, nougat, flint cakes, filhós and azevias to take home.
Back to Borba, take a dip in the Casa do Terreiro do Poço's pool if it's summer or just relax and dine in one of the famous Borba's taverns. We suggest the tomato soup, the pot soup, fish soup, potato soup, purslane soup - the difficulty will be in the choice - accompanied by local wine and rice pudding for dessert.
Sunday morning, take another dip in the pool or a walk through Borba and enjoy once again the Alentejo's gastronomy this time as tradition dictates in Alentejo for a Sunday lunch, hot bread soup with eggs, roast lamb or lamb stew, ending with sericá, dessert originating from eastern lands. If you are driving do not drink wine as we want you to arrive home safely and you are ready to face the following week.
We hope to see you again soon!
Arrive Friday evening and check-in the friendly Alqueva accommodation and Alentejo rural house Bética Hotel Rural in Pias / Serpa / Portugal. After a good night's sleep, a dip in the pool (during summer of course) and a good breakfast set out to explore the region.
You can start by visiting the Pulo do Lobo cascade situated in the Parque Natural do Vale do Guadiana, north of the city of Mértola and that is where the Guadiana river narrows and its crystal clear waters current speeds down about 20 meters into a huge natural serene lagoon.
Drive towards Serpa and have lunch in one of its restaurants eating the region's specialties such as rabbit, hare, partridge and wild boar during hunting season or simply pork with migas or any other dish on offer and finish in beauty with a "folhado de gila".
You can then visit the Torre do Relógio (Clock Tower that was formerly a dungeon), the gothic Igreja Matriz (Church), the churches of Salvador and Santa Maria (XIV century) and the Igreja da Misericórdia, with interesting eighteenth century tiles, and the Archaeological Museum (closed for works at the moment - August 2011) that presents a permanent exhibition of archaeological artifacts covering a wide chronological period - from the lower Paleolithic to the Islamic period and the Ethnographic Museum which features a collection consisting of various tools and artifacts related to the crafts of saddler, tailor, chair maker, carpenter, basketmaker, blacksmith, tinsmith, potter, shoemaker in the county.
You ca also visit the Clock Museum, where are patents 1700 pieces, all mechanical, dating from the seventeenth century, with several copies of pocket, wrist and room clocks, among others.
Stock up good local and regional produce to take home: like the excellent Serpa and Pias wine, olive oil, bread, the famous Serpa cheese, spicy smoked pork sausage (from black pork) asparagus, harvested in the groves of the plain, wild mushrooms picked in the Sierra area, the olives here are splendid in many ways canned (whole, crushed, "shredded"), honey and traditional desserts like the "tosquiados" (egg whites and almonds), the "turtas" (stuffed with sweet potatoes), the "queijadas de requeijão" with ricotta.
Dine in Pias and if it's summer, we suggest the "lavadas" (cold shredded tomato soup), the "gazpacho" (here called "vinagrada"), and / or river fish stew accompanied by a good Pias wine.
After dinner take a walk through Pias and appreciate Alentejo's tranquility in the evening.
Sunday morning we suggest a dip in the pool of the Bética Hotel Rural to cool off in summer or ride a bike through Pias to see this pretty village.
Sunday lunch is traditionally lamb, roasted or Pastora (region's specialty) and your ready for your trip home or wherever you're going next.
Check-in Friday evening to the charm and elegance of the Alentejo rural house Casa do Terreiro do Poço, in Borba, Portugal and after a good night's sleep and a good breakfast you're ready to explore Borba and its history.
If you are into antiques, check the many antique shops in Borba and pay a quick visit to Estremoz where every Saturday morning there is an Antiques Fair in Rossio Marquês of Pombal.
Lunch in Estremoz or in one of the famous Borba Tasquinhas, some of the specialties of the region. We suggest purslane soup, fried river fish, fried or roasted rabbit and if you are not driving, with a good local wine. To finish, try a regional dessert - Azevia.
After lunch, we recommend that you visit Igreja de St. António (Church) which was founded in 1630 by the Brotherhood of St. António. The church had, for it's support, several farms whose yearly profits, went towards it's ornamentation and upkeep.
The Borba Castle was built by King D. Dinis in order to protect the village that would become a strategic point of defense of Alentejo's border. Square-shaped, the thick wall was covered by a large battlement in its entirety. The fence was been absorbed by the houses, which replaced it in large intervals. In the northeast corner stands the massive Castle Keep. Inside you can see the Prison and Clock towers.
The primitive church of Santa Maria was founded in 1260 inside the Castle and delivered by the King Alfonso III to the Military Order of Avis. However, in 1420, D. João Rodrigues de Sequeira had built a new church in its present location and then in 1560, Cardinal D. Henrique had rebuilt the Mother Church.
The Standard of Montes Claros in Rio de Moinhos is a marble column that was built by the Regent Prince D. Pedro who ruled instead of his brother, D. Afonso and that marks the spot where on June 17, 1665, the Battle of Montes Claros took place.
Steps of the Lord are processional Steps in Borba being the largest in the country as were the last in a series to be built in the Alentejo.
You can also visit
- Alvarez Family Palace
- Palace of the Knights Silveira Menezes
- Capela do Senhor Jesus dos Aflitos (Chapel)
- Igreja da Misericórdia (Church)
- Convento das Servas
- Convento de Nossa Senhora da Luz – Rio de Moinhos
Stock up on quality regional products that are the region's wine, cheese, olive oil, spicy smoked pork sausages and bread.
Dine in another Borba Tasquinhas other specialties like fish soup, fish with coriander, lamb stew or pork with migas, with a good wine from Borba and finish with another regional dessert "Encharcada".
Take a walk in the evening through Borba and see the current Town Hall, which was built in the late eighteenth century.
Then after another good night's sleep, Sunday morning, enjoy another dip in the pool or a walk through Borba and roast lamb for lunch with Sericaia with Elvas prunes as dessert.
And now you're ready to face another week.
Come again soon!
Check-in at the Rural Tourism Água d'Alte in Aldeia da Serra / Serra d'Ossa / Redondo / Portugal and after a good night's sleep and a good breakfast set out to explore the region.
Make a discreet visit to the Convento de São Paulo which is now a hotel, standing from 1182 in Aldeia da Serra / Serra d'Ossa, and had as guests for centuries celebrated figures as kings D. Sebastião, D. João IV and queen D. Catarina de Bragança and that still holds more than 54,000 tiles with biblical themes, bas-reliefs in terracotta and other valuables as the Florentine four seasons fountain and the old church.
Also in Serra d'Ossa you can see artificial caves from the time of hermit monks, around a thousand years ago, and also one of the largest populations of insect-eating plants in the country called the sun-dew (Drosophyllum lusitanicum) that looks like a green octopus, upside down.
Among the many Antas who will see in the region we highlight the Anta do Colmeeiro, which is a Neolithic monument IV / III millennium BC, and consists of a polygonal chamber and a corridor and is one of the best preserved of the county.
In the vicinity of Redondo you can visit the Igreja do Espírito Santo in Montoito existing since the century XIV, was Commendation of the Order of Malta and later passed to the Order of Avis and on the outskirts of Porta Ravessa, stands the Convento de S. António composed by Church and Convent Annex, founded by the Order of the Capuchins, whose construction is due to the Count of Redondo, D. João Coutinho in 1605 and that is now the Pottery Museum.
Lunch in a restaurant in Redondo and in the afternoon visit the Castle (XIV century) built by D. Dinis, whose plant has the configuration of a walled irregular ellipse, with four round turrets that protect the Amur and two towers, one facing west, Torre de Menagem (Watch Tower) (XV century) which is the work of the reign of King Afonso V, but completed in the reign of King D. Manuel and the other at southeast, the Alcaidaria. It also presents two tower gates, with Gothic arches: and at northeast is Porta da Ravessa or Porta do Sol, where there is the hallmark of the rod and the cubit, to which cloth manufacturers had to submit in the markets and fairs, and at southwest is Porta do Postigo, which was increased in the Manueline period with new masonry arch back fully decorated with the coat of arms of the donee of the village, D. Vasco Coutinho.
You can also see the pillory (XVI century), possibly corresponding to the time of D. Manuel's new charter, and the Ermida de S. Pedro (XVI century) located in the far north - west of town on a high point of the old hunting ground S. Pedro, reached today through a stone staircase from 1930.
Do not forget to buy a souvenir because Redondo was, and remains, a major Alentejo pottery center with cultural values and technologies inherited from the Romans, Arabs and other peoples who have settled here and lived for many centuries.
Stock up on local and regional quality products as honey, olive oil, spicy smoked sausages, bread, wine and cheese.
Dine in one of the Aldeia da Serra restaurants where you can chose from the many regional and local specialties with the region's wine.
Sunday morning, take a dip in the pool or a horseback ride (Redondo) or a walk around the countryside to relax and you're ready for your next trip.