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BAIXO ALENTEJO

Cereal fields and vineyards with the Guadiana River in the distance

#barrancos #alvito #ferreira do alentejo #cuba #beja #aljustrel #ourique castro verde #almodovar #mertola


The vast natural heritage of Baixo Alentejo region includes mountain and plain, earth and sea, towns and villages, rivers and weirs. It is a far-reaching plain, crossed here and there by thin water streams, covered by hills and elevations with castles and fortresses on top, where olive trees, Holm oaks and cork oaks are planted. In this golden plain of waving cereal fields, one searches for the shadow of the cork oaks in the peak of heat, refreshing reservoirs, such as Alvito reservoir, or the blue Guadiana River.

 

This region has few inhabitants, but its cities are full of history, heritage and tradition. For instance, Beja, district capital, which used to be Pax Julia of the Romans has plenty to see: from the castle with an extremely high keep to Manueline churches and cosy squares. The town of Mértola, located by the Guadiana, is also worth highlighting. It is the true Portuguese archaeology capital, the place where Roman, Early Christian and Moorish vestiges intermingle and complement each other. Within the Guadiana Natural Park, located next to Mértola, heading north, you will find the imposing Pulo do Lobo waterfall and S. Domingos mines, a treasure of industrial archaeology. You must also bear in mind names like Ourique, Ferreira do Alentejo, Cuba and Almodôvar.

 

Moura is also a city with a deep Islamic heritage. The Olive Oil Museu is a reference of this city. In Barrancos, located next to the dry "raia" region, you should watch rattan chair making, taste smoked ham and visit Noudar Castle. In Serpa, which is also a very interesting city in terms of heritage, you can not miss a unique museum in the Iberian Peninsula, the Clock Museum. Moorish and Andalusian influences have shaped traditions, whose roots get lost in the endless horizon. 

 

In a land with very few resources, the inhabitants of Alentejo made use of herbs and imagination, creating intense flavours and one of the richest gastronomies in the country. They seasoned school shark, lamb, pork and game birds with pusley, pennyroyal, parsley, costmary, oregano and coriander sauce, as well as asparagus and mushrooms of the hill of Caldeirão Mountain. There are many specialities: "masmarras" (hot mush made of bread and garlic); consistent soups, such as gazpacho, called "vinagrada" in Serpa; black pork meats that originate good sausages, for instance in Vila Nova de S. Bento and Vila Verde de Ficalho. In terms of sweets, convent-based specialities are the most important ones. However, the list of gastronomic dishes would not be complete without a reference to Serpa cheese and Moura olive oil, both of them certified products. You must not forget the vineyards and regional wine cooperatives from Pias to Vidigueira and Granja, where some of the best Portuguese wines are produced.

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