The Spoked Traveller | SILVERKRIS MAGAZINE: Monsanto, Portugal
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Most Portuguese of Portugal: Monsanto. SilverKris: Singapore Airlines’ Magazine. 

This scenic hamlet is guarded by huge granite rock formations.

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.


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