When we made the decision to move permanently to the Alentejo, and specifically Estremoz, we were unaware of the Serra d’ossa and didn’t know that it would become so important to us. But once we discovered it, we soon became drawn to making weekly forays into its hidden depths, hardly ever meeting another living soul.
The traditional clay figures of Estremoz, or Bonecos de Estremoz, in 2017 were recognised by UNESCO as being an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity—and are part of the cultural identity of the town.
Although this monument is a little way off from Estremoz, the Anta Tapadão at Aldeia da Mata really is worth a visit as it is one of the most accessible and complete dolmens in the country.
An hour’s drive north from town, Aldeia da Mata is a small village in the Portalegre district. As you draw close huge rock formations begin to appear in the surrounding fields – some even used as fences or outbuildings by local farmers – conjuring up an ancient medieval atmosphere before you arrive at the historic site.
You may have gathered by now that we are big fans of all forms of art and expression, and go out of our way to support our local artists and craftsmen. Following the Covid restrictions, we are happy to report that things are now opening up again and the Estremoz art scene is springing into life once more.
The Museu Municipal de Estremoz Prof. Joaquim Vermelho is at the top of the town in the castle square, in a building that dates back to the 13th/14th century—and is a great little place to visit if you want to know more about the town of Estremoz, it’s traditions, history and people.
Set out to resemble a traditional Alentejo home, the museum also includes a separate art gallery that hosts temporary exhibitions of modern art that change throughout the year.
The latest in a great series of exhibitions at the Estremoz tourist office that showcases the work of local craftsmen and artists is: Gaiolas com Arte.
On display until 5th September, the exhibition consists of around 15 individually-styled bird boxes made from reclaimed pallet wood, with each one painted to represent a traditional Alentejo monte complete with its own unique name.
Anyone who becomes a resident in Portugal is eligible to import one foreign-registered car tax-free. This is good news because the import taxes on cars here is extortionate, however, you do need to work through a whole list of documents and meet certain criteria in order to comply with the tax-free status—and you must have owned the vehicle for more than 6 months.
Coming from Spain, my little car had Spanish plates, but the same rules apply to importing vehicles from other EU countries and also British or US registered cars.
Due to its geographical position bordering Spain, and the animosity that existed between the two countries down the years, it seems that just about every town and village in the Alentejo has some kind of defensive remnants—and Juromenha right on the banks of the Guadiana River that divides Portugal and Spain is a fine example.
Once an important powerhouse, the fortress at Juromenha looks out across the peaceful river and beyond to the plains of Olivenza in Spain. Today, left in ruins, it is a shadow of it’s former self and when you visit it is hard to believe that it once played such an important role in the on going skirmishes with the Spanish.
Local artist, João Carlos Travassos Pena, from San Bento do Cortiço, is exhibiting some of his more recent pieces of work at the Estremoz tourist office in the town’s main Rossio square.
Running from 3 July to 1 August, the art exhibition Estremoz entitled ‘Horizontes Verticais’, or Vertical Horizons, showcases a series of the artist’s colourful oil-on-canvas paintings and is free to visit.
I own a copy of a lovely coffee table book called ‘As Mais Belas Vilas e Aldeias de Portugal’ (Portugal’s Most Beautiful Towns and Villages), which I bought way back in the 1980s—and even though I have moved country a couple of times in the interim, I still have the book with me.
One of the most intriguing places that always stood out for me was the village of Pavia, in the Alentejo, and it makes sense that it was one of the first places that I wanted to visit when we moved here in 2020.