Our typical house of Porto da Espada, a village near Marvaõ, in the state-preserved Natural Park of the Serra de São Mamede.
In the Alentejo, you'll encounter millenary olive trees, each with its own unique character – one slender, one crooked, one with a trunk split in two; so fascinating you'll want a selfie with all of them. Then, your eyes hover over the pastoral lands stretching afar, so far it feels as if you've entered the embrace of a giant with arms wide open.
Driving through the Alentejo, it's impossible not to fall in love. But it's not just the region's breathtaking beauty; it's because of the peaceful silence that builds within you. Human presence vanishes as soon as you hit the highway. It's a time for cruising, daydreaming with Schubert's 9th Symphony in the background, or catching up with news on BBC Global. And wherever you stop, you'll encounter people who exude genuine kindness.
Nestled within this pristine natural habitat, you rediscover your humanity—empathetic and connected. You'll strain your ears to distinguish a bird's song. Oblivious to any other obligations, you become entranced by the passage of time contained within these trees, these stones, and the restored Quintas (farms) holding onto its original simple lifestyle. The Alentejo is Portugal in a bottle. It speaks of longevity with care and preservation.
Images of olive trees and a Quinta. Both high symbols of the Alentejo region. When you enter the Natural Park of the Serra de São Mamede mountains, the olive trees befriend chestnut and walnut trees. And if a herd of cattle leaves the pasture, you yield the way to them. The altitude of Serra de Mamede is 1,025 meters. It is the only mountain, along with Serra de Arraiolos, to experience snow in the Alentejo. From its peak, on a clear day, you can see Marvão, Castelo de Vide, the mountains of Gardunha, Talhadas, Estrela, Apartadura Dam, and much of Spanish Extremadura.
Vegetation of the Serra and its famous chestnut trees. All rights reserved.
Lost in the mountains, the village of Porto da Espada is one of the best birdwatching spots in the area. The chestnut trees are highly prized by several species of cavity-nesting birds. You might spot the white-fronted kingfisher, the mountain sparrow, and the house sparrow. If you're lucky, you might even spot a red-cockaded woodpecker.
Porto da Espada is like entering the stage through the backdoor. At the intersection of Marvaõ and Espanha (Spain), your heart sways. Will you dine in Marvaõ, the medieval city perched on the nearby hilltop, just fifteen minutes away? Or will you turn in early to explore Cáceres in Spain tomorrow, a 1-hour and 40-minute drive away, for a late lunch? And why not simply relax tomorrow and go for a hike that would please the dogs? Such dilemmas are, of course, a luxury.
Marvaõ Castle and its magnificent walls by Rita and Miguel, authors of World On My Way.
Marvaõ Castle and city. Courtesy of Rita and Miguel, authors of World On My Way.
Legend has it that Porto da Espada is associated with the Christian reconquest of the Iberian Peninsula by Saint James, who drew his sword (espada) to vanquish a hundred thousand Moors. Marvaõ, and on the other side of the border, Cáceres, bear witness to tumultuous and glorious stories: the Roman and Moorish occupations, and, for Cáceres, the Golden age of Jewish culture in Spain.
In the region of Marvaõ, take the time to delve into the Sephardic history of Spain and Portugal, a history that spans 3,000 years. The Portuguese and Spanish Jews constituted one of the most significant communities in both countries, particularly in the Alentejo:
In the year 1492, during a pivotal period, the Holy Inquisition was imposing its authority on Spain. Queen Isabel I of Castile and King Ferdinand II of Aragon sought to consolidate their power and mandated the conversion of Jews to Christianity. However, there were those who managed to find refuge in Portugal, where King João II saw their arrival as an opportunity to bolster the crown's much-needed resources. [Source for more on the topic]
These days, it's music that draws international crowds to Marvaõ. FIMM, the International Festival of Classical Music, takes place during the second half of July atop the hill, in the open air, surrounded by ancient walls. FIMM has been a cultural attraction for European and American aesthetes since its inception. Who wouldn't want to experience an a cappella choir performance at an altitude of 862 meters in such a historical and natural wonder?
FIMM, Festival Internacional de Música de Marvão. Courtesy of https://marvaomusic.com.
Marvaõ by night. The Marvaõ region, with its rich cultural heritage, has lured a diverse international community, including British, Germans, Belgians, and Americans, with many artists choosing to settle in the area.
If birdwatching is a popular pastime in the region for some, the cuisine is where others will devote time and passion. The distinct taste of Marvão-Portalegre chestnuts is so renowned, it can be enjoyed in dishes like chestnut soup, pork roast with chestnuts, or turkey with chestnuts. So it is for the Cereja de São Julião-Portalegre, a sweet cherry as dark as wine sediment, ripens on trees in November, February, April, and July, and eaten fresh as a dessert. For meat lovers, the Cacholeira branca de Portalegre is a sausage exclusive to the Portalegre municipality, crafted from the fat, liver, offal, and blood of the Alentejo pig. It's ground and spiced with garlic, cumin, sweet paprika, and salt. [Source]
Ready for a siesta? Join us.
Typical country house in the Alentejo; currently on sale. Descriptive and pricing here.
On the small path diverging from the main road, you'll find our Alentejo house currently up for sale. Its size is just perfect, its blue outlines carry the Alentejo's signature, and its garden is designed for lazy afternoons in a hammock. Stepping into the loft-sized living room, its high ceiling and mezzanine are a playground for morning yoga and evenings curated with music and wine.
WATCH video of the house [indoor/oudoor], with its garden and stunning views.
WATCH video of the house [indoor/oudoor], with its garden and stunning views.
To the left, the rustic kitchen, shaped like a square with its imposing fireplace, is an invitation to prepare traditional dishes that simmer for hours in a cast-iron pan signed Le Creuset. Then comes the spectacular volume of the living space, with at its center a conical and elongated fireplace, designed for winter fires, roasting chestnuts, and to warm up friends gathering around local wine.
In the late afternoon light, rays dance upon the wooden floor. The glass doors open up to the large garden. A fig tree, rose bushes, citrus, and chestnut trees exude their soft perfumes. The pool offers views of the sprawling vineyards and olive groves.
Now, return to the living room and ascend the blond staircase to the mezzanine. Seated in your favorite armchair with A Single Man, the soundtrack album by Abel Korzeniowski playing on Spotify, you sip from a mug of tea, or is it an aged port? Who could tell? The dogs are napping on the couch, and your husband, Alban, is asking where you would like to dine. Slowly, the adolescent within you, with an itch for painting, resurfaces. In the haze and warmth of the golden lights, it is so clear why the impressionists had to move from the dark confines of Northern Europe to the South to capture these lively fields bathed by a declining sun.
If the landscape reminds you of the Cévennes and the Pyrénées in France, with their similar lace-like peaks, this house is just 2 hours and 45 minutes from the capital city of Lisbon, where you both spend a few nights, rarely more, but that was an important factor in your choice.
It's music that initially brought you to the region. Outdoor music in these spectacular settings is what Europe has consistently crafted with great consistency, curatorial class, and respect for authored expression, you think to yourself. "Solar do Forcado," you finally respond. In Marvaõ, it's one of your favorite restaurants. It's cozy and always homemade-delicious, and dogs are welcome. At the back of the mezzanine, there's a shaded storage space, perfect for collecting regional wines. Next to it, the large bedroom and its ensuite bathroom offer the kind of space people dream of for a full apartment in New York. And downstairs, there are two other large bedrooms, separated by another bathroom.
Before leaving the house and pulling the car out of the covered garage, switch on the automatic garden watering system. It comes with the house, as do the hand-carved antique wooden cabinets. And if you dream of swimming tomorrow, the village is adjacent to the Sever River, which features a spacious new riverfront pool.
Marvaõ by night.
Hikes and bike rides around Marvaõ by outdooractive.com You're a nature lover. You always dreamt of working remotely in a place where hiking is practically at your doorstep, and forest bathing or bird watching with stunning valley views are your favorite pastimes.
You're a music lover and a foodie. You know how to create inviting and cozy homes with a New Mediterranean Touch for the summer, and comfy plaids and carpets for the winter, in a house naturally cool indoors and well-insulated.
You're a yoga teacher in California. You always wanted a house in Europe that can simultaneously serve as a yoga retreat and your family's second home to discover European culture. You reside in London, Paris, or New York. And you have promised your husband that, once the kids leave for university, you both will escape to a tranquil hideaway that blends nature and culture, leaving behind the buzz of capital cities.
By the way, the closest airport is in Badajoz, Spain, just a short 30-minute drive away. Who wouldn't want to live in a charming village straddling the border between two stunning Southern European countries?
Our house in Porto da Espada, Marvaõ, can accommodate all your dreams of remastered lifestyles. And so much more; from exploring castles to conquering mountain peaks, from indulging in music and gourmet cuisine, to save time for peaceful and playful escapes in one of our favourite regions of Portugal.
From an investment perspective, this region is a goldmine for cultural tourism, attracting a large number of French and Spanish tourists. It's worth noting that the two regions in the Alentejo that have capitalized on their cultural assets and natural beauty with great success are Marvaõ and Monsaraz –located two-hour drive away in Southern Alentejo, and another medieval gem.
Should you be in need of services and supplies, schools, hospitals, banks, and supermarkets can all be found in nearby Portalegre. A quick drive through white villages will offer excellent restaurants, local olive oil, artisanal cheeses, and some of the most incredible wines of Portugal. To trace the villages and cities nearby Porto da Espada, here's a list to dive into:
Alter do Chão (village), Arronches (village), Avis (village), Campo Maior (village), Castelo de Vide (village), Crato (village), Elvas* (city), Fronteira (village), Gavião (village), Marvão (village), Monforte (village), Nisa (village), Ponte de Sor (city), Portalegre (city), Sousel (village).
* Elvas: "The star-shaped fortifications here date back to the 17th century and are the largest in the world, with a perimeter of 10 km. Strolling along the town's ramparts offers sensational views and a profound sense of history. The castle, forts, and majestic 7 km long Amoreira aqueduct add to the drama, and all are UNESCO World Heritage sites." [Source: UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the Alentejo]
Since we began with olive tree selfies, make sure to tour the Museum Lagar in Marvaõ, which tells the fascinating story of olive oil production in the region. And if the Alentejo grows in your heart, call us to scout for you.
Mojo is a Boutique Real Estate guiding and assisting investors and buyers in Portugal. We scout and cherry pick the best possible property within your brief and budget. We manage and coordinate the purchase process with expertise in renovations.