Monday, 29 August 2016

Chronicles from Alentejo | Monsaraz

Visited Monsaraz this Summer and this small town in Alentejo is so beautiful that I couldn't stop taking photos. Today, wile selecting the pictures to this post end up with more than 30 and is really difficult to me to cut some off because I want to show you how gorgeous Monsaraz is. If this is an indicator of how much I recommend a visit, you can start adding it to your list if you're about to visit Alentejo (Portugal).

Monsaraz lies along the Guadiana river, perched on a hill that rises from the Alentejo plain. It was conquered from the Moors in 1167 and handed over to the Templars by the Portuguese King D. Sancho II for its defense and settlement.

The medieval village of Monsaraz, protected by its walls is a small but beautiful town, with its shale streets, whitewashed walls and colorful flowers everywhere . With narrow streets leading towards the walls, the village presents a breathtaking view of the Alentejo countryside and of the reservoir of Alqueva dam.

While in Monsaraz one can visit the castle that for centuries played the role of Guadiana lookout post. From the top of the castle walls you'll have a fantastic view of the village and  can see as far as the border with Spain.

The Main Church of Santa Maria da Lagoa, in Renaissance style, was built  in the sixteenth century and replaced the former Gothic temple that existed on the site. It is located in the central square of the  village, next to which the pillory. The square has other interesting buildings and is crossed by the main street of Monsaraz where you can find restaurants, coffee shops and shops.

Throughout the town you can find lovely little shops of local crafts and foods. The wines from the region are also  of top quality and there are some nice wine shops that you can visit. Restaurants and coffee shops are scattered throughout Monsaraz and you can choose a nice terrace to have a good meal or to enjoy a refreshing drink. There are also places to stay if you choose to extende your visit, but you can, comfortably drive from Lisbon in the morning and come back in the afternoon.

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Chronicles from Alentejo | Mértola

If there's one thing that characterizes Alentejo, beyond the golden plains, is its whitewashed walls, reflecting and multiplying the light.

For me, this is Alentejo. It is this raw and sweet light of noon, reflected in the narrow streets, where the sun falls steeply. It is the warm, golden light of late afternoon, giving the fields a stubble skin tone and the air of a sleeping body on the sun set.

Last summer I returned to Mértola! Beautiful Mértola, by the river. Mértola the Roman, the Moorish, the Christian, holds such a rich historie, resuming from each stone, that is impossible not to love it. Close to Algarve and to the border with Spain is a place one can't miss while visiting Alentejo.

Its millennial history reports to the presence of Phoenicians and Carthaginians, and after the Romans, who called it Myrtilis Iulia. Its strategic location, on the top of a hill overlooking a  navigable part of the Guadiana river, was crucial for its early development.

With the Moorish occupation Myrtilis became Martulah, and  played an important economic role in the commerce of agricultural and mineral goods between the Alentejo and other parts of Al-Andalus and Northern Africa.

One of the icons of Mértola is its castle, rising from the top of the hill and extending its walls down to the river around the town. Mértola had a wall, dating from Roman times, but the Muslims built new fortifications and a castle to protect it from rival Muslim and Christian states. Allthough the castle is of Muslim origin, the current building dates from a reconstruction carried out after the town was taken by the Christians. The most notable feature of the castle is its 30 metre-high keep tower, finished around 1292, which has an inner hall covered with Gothic vaulting. The defences include a city wall, which still encircles the town.

The main Church of Mértola (Matriz), with its whitewashed walls, was originally an ancient Arabic Mosque. Built in the twelfth century, was converted into a Christian church after the conquest of the town, preserving, nevertheless, many of its original characteristics.  In the 16th century the church was partially remodeled, gaining a new roof and a new main portal in Renaissance style. Nevertheless, the inner arrangement, with four naves and several columns, strongly resembles that of the original mosque, and the interior of the church still has the mihrab, the decorated niche that indicates the direction of the Mecca. Outside, the church has four portals with horseshoe arches, typical of Islamic architecture. Today, it is classified as a National Monument.

The museum of Mértola, consisting mostly of archaeological findings and excavations, has its collections distributed all over the town. The nucleus of Islamic art in the museum is the most important in Portugal, consisting of various objects (pottery, glassware, metalwork, coins) dating from the period of Islamic domination. Other exhibits include remnants of an ancient Christian church, and excavations of a Roman house found under the Municipality building.

Monday, 8 August 2016

Chronicles from Alentejo | South

I'm heading South this week, going to spend a few days in Alentejo... my beloved Alentejo.

Alentejo is, for me, one of the most beautiful regions of Portugal. Golden in summer, green in winter  and flowery in spring, its landscape will be transforming throughout the year, while is always captivating.

But it is in summer, in that golden hour before the sun disappears, that the plains reach a magical dimension. That’s my Alentejo, were I walk in my dreams, which I remember with longing every day, the one for which I always want to return.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...