17 Oct SILVERKRIS MAGAZINE: Monsanto, Portugal
Most Portuguese of Portugal: Monsanto. SilverKris: Singapore Airlines’ Magazine.
Built into the side of a mountain with houses wedged between giant granite boulders and winding cobblestone streets, is a village that appears not to have changed in centuries. So traditional is Monsanto, some of its widows still dress in black for life and refuse to remarry – a throwback to European mourning traditions.
Up on the hill, at its pinnacle, is Castelo e Muralhas, a 12th-century castle which survived Napoleon and Roman raids. The view from it, of the terracotta-hued land beyond is stupendous: row upon row of olive trees with Serra da Estrela – Portugal’s highest mountain range – in the distance.
In the village below, a silver rooster presides from atop Lucano’s Tower, a 14th-century bell ringer tower. The rooster, a symbol of Portugal, was awarded to the town in 1938 when it was voted the “most Portuguese village in Portugal” in a countrywide contest.
Part of this distinction comes from the Manueline architecture of its buildings: a rare Gothic-like style, dating between 1495 to 1535, that is seen only in a few Portuguese towns today. The rounded doorways on Monsanto’s houses are part of this style.
Even the food and products found in the village are classic Portuguese. Petiscos e Granitos – a restaurant with walls, roof and floors fashioned from granite boulders – has cuisine featuring local chorizo and goat cheese. The shop Monsabores, sells port wines from the Douro River region in the north, and wool horseriding shawls. Also, Taverna Lusitana is a cosy spot to rest and dine on Portuguese favourites: flaming chorizo sausage, washed down with strong acorn liqueur.
Monsanto is a four-hour drive south-east of the city of Porto.
– BY MELANIE CHAMBERS