Visiting Monsanto – 2 interesting visits
Located in Castelo Branco district, and close to Idanha-a-Nova and Termas de Monfortinho, Monsanto is a beautiful example of the traditional villages of inland Portugal, progressively abandoned by the migration of the populations to the coast.
Well preserved, without artificial additions or reconstructions, it has not much resources to fix visitors, that usually make a brief stop, in a circuit that includes several of the highlights of the area.
Once said “The most Portuguese town of Portugal”. Monsanto really deserves your visit. Lost in the progressively abandoned interior, close to the border, and in central Portugal, the site boosts splendorous views, and breaths authenticity in each stone.
It’s a steep place and needs an effort to climb to the top but you won’t regret the effort.
Freedom, health and purity describe the feelings in location.
If you feel in good condition you may accept the challenge of climbing to the castle.
It has nothing particularly relevant, but it obliges to walk along all the village, and reaching the top, it rewards you with some awesome sights. Someone said that Monsanto is the most Portuguese village of Portugal.
I don’t know if it’s true, but tradition is honestly present everywhere, and coming down, you will feel like having lived something real.
Well, we made it in the first visit, not in the second under almost 40º Celsius.
S. Miguel chapel
Close to the castle there’s a ruined chapel. It was called St. Miguel chapel, and was built in Roman style at the end of the 12th century.
The chapel is surrounded by a few graves carved in the rocks.
I don’t know if it really is “the most Portuguese village of Portugal” as it is widely advertised. It leaves the sensation of a dead village, but I must admit that villages are dying in Portugal, so even that is “very Portuguese”.
Its visit is interesting, and even if you don’t dare the hard climbing to the castle, the visit of only the village will justify your trip.
With luck, maybe you find someone, and if you do, you will confirm that locals are really gentle and welcoming, even without touristic business in mind.
Tourism has taken place everywhere, but the traditional look keeps seriously respected.
Well integrated in the village, close to its entrance, this mannerist church from the 15th century was modified in the 18th, and still shows the old gilded altar.
When looking for a restaurant, we had the perception of the percentage of houses that offer the usual paraphernalia for tourist consumption. Restaurants seemed few and small to us, which suggests that visits continue to be predominantly passing through.
Petiscos e Granitos
A restaurant that is serious about image, adapting to the millimeter to the local geology, which it uses to convey a strong image. Spread out in different planes and corners, this aspect ends up harming the service, which did not seem very expeditious.
The food was reasonable, but, for the prices we expected a little better. It was worth it for the unusual, and because we managed to have lunch.
Shopping and shopping
Tourism has transformed the village. From the appearance of abandonment it has changed to a living image, where every door seems to have something for sale. Evolution is only social, the image is carefully preserved.
Lunch under the rocks
Entering a small (full) restaurant, we were taken down a set of stairs in the rocky wall to a beautiful terrace, where a door wedged between rocks looked threatening. It was our exclusive room.
The meal in such an unusual setting was so much fun that no one took the time to comment on the food.
When we left, everyone, even the children, enjoyed the terrace and its spectacular views.
And what do I remember from the first visit?
In our first visit we climbed all the way up to the castle, to verify that it doesn’t have much to see, only adding wider views to the good views everywhere. It was the occasion to make a few poor pictures and to descend.
We were the only tourists in the first visit, allowing time and space for photo, only harmed by technical obsolescence and the wear and tear of time.
It is the perfect entrance to a village where construction blends with rocks to compose a strange and powerful image.
Integrated with “Espírito Santo” chapel, one of the doors got the chapel’s name, also called, I don’t know why, St. Sebastian arch.
The chapel is from the 16th century, but the arch must be older, probably already with the saint’s name.
Also called the clock tower, for obvious reasons, this is the tallest building in the village, providing good views to those who don’t risk the hard climbing to the castle.
Atop of this 14th century tower, a silvery clock was the official prize for “the most Portuguese village of Portugal” award.
As we enter the village, there’s a fountain that is seems to be used regularly.
Well, standing so low, it should be hard to carry water uphill…
It’s a difficult compromise, to preserve the traditional look of the villages, and to give locals some comfort.
Nowhere I noticed a so remarkable presence of electric wires and TV antennas as in Monsanto.
Couldn’t be otherwise?
Yes, it can – in my second visit I didn’t have that sensation…
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