A landscape shaped by the Tagus
The Tagus River crosses the fertile fields of Ribatejo between Golegã and Azambuja. Agriculture is one of the main local activities. Horses and bulls run along the riverside meadows, to the concentrated eyes of the restless "campinos" (bullfighters). Therefore, Ribatejo is the centre of stud farms and bull farms ("ganadarias"), where horses and bulls are bred for the bullfighting feast. The Horse Fair in Golegã celebrates all this, taking place annually during the feasts of São Martinho.
In terms of heritage, the visitor has many options, such as Camões House in Constância or Patudos House in Alpiarça. Santarém, the Gothic capital, is rich in monuments, from countless churches to the memorable balcony of Portas do Sol with a view over the surrounding fields. However, the historical richness is also to be seen in archaeological sites, Copper Age fort hills, aqueducts and Roman bridges, churches, monasteries and medieval castles.
This region has one of the most original gastronomies of the country. The "torricado", which was toasted bread covered by olive oil and garlic and served with roasted codfish or meat, was born out of the simple needs of the peasants. However, you can taste other specialities in this region: bread crumbs of regional maize bread mixed with vegetables or turnip; famous stone soup of Almeirim; lamb à Alpiarça; boiled wild meats; liver soup; fish stew à Fragateiro; Allis shad mashed bread speciality ("açorda") and eel stew. You can not miss the delicious sweets: "celestes" (egg and almond-based sweets), "arrepiados de Almoster", "queijinhos do céu" (cakes made of cheese), potato delicacies, and pinion and honey breads.
In the surroundings of Golegã, you will find Paul do Boquilobo, one of the richest areas of sea bird breeding, which has been classified natural reserve. This is also the habitat of the great egret or the cattle egret. However, all riverside landscapes of Tagus River deserve a special attention, including the old fishermen's villages that still have wooden houses built upon pillars because of the floods, such as Palhota and Escaroupim. There are also the villages protected by stone walls against the Tagus floods like Valada do Ribatejo, Reguengo or Porto de Mugo. The tiles that decorate Azambuja and Santarém train stations reveal a bit of this landscape, even though idealised.
Still, it was the valley of Santarém that enchanted 18th century writer Almeida Garrett, who described it in the literary work "Viagens da Minha Terra" as one of those "places blessed by Nature, where plants, air, and location, everything is in the smoothest perfect harmony: there are no grandiose nor sublime things, only a symmetry of colours, sounds, and everything we see and feel, as if tranquillity, health, peace of mind and a mild heart lived there, reigning in a kingdom of love and benevolence."