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!