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Discover Grandola in the Alentejo Region of Portugal

Countless traces such as those at Melides and Lousal bear witness to the occupation of the land that includes Grandola during prehistoric times.

The Roman era has left us the Grandola spas or baths, a dam two kilometres from the town and, above all, the ruins of what was one of the most important industrial complexes of the Western Mediterranean; the Troia fish preserving and salting centre.

Along about a kilometre of the left bank of the river Sado, once can admire the salting tanks, a dock, washrooms, cemeteries and the ruins of a basilica with its Palreo-Christian frescoes. In 1527, at about the time of the general census of the population of the kingdom, Grmdola had a population of 45, plus another 200 in the surrounding area.

In 1544, king Joao III granted it a Town Charter at the request of D. Jorge de Lencastre, duke of Coimbra, a fact that contributed to the development of the settlement. An interesting initiative marked 1679, the foundation of a communal granary, set up to lend wheat to the poorer farmers.

The year 1727 saw the construction of a hospice for the Discalced Augustinian Friars. The Town of Grandola was under the feudal protection of the dukes of Aveiro and then of the marquises of Ferreira and of the dukes of Cadaval.

The 19th century marked a time of frank progress. Though farming was prevalent, small manufacturing industries sprang up, involved in cork and in mining in the regions of Caveira (1863) and Lousal (1900).

Following the April25th revolution in 1974, Grandola acquired a very special symbolic status thanks to Jose Monso’s song, “Grandola Vila Morena”, which became the hymn of the “Carnation Revolution” that put an end to four decades of dictatorship in Portugal.

The municipality of Grandola is blessed with unique riches in its environment and landscape, where ecosystems of great value subsist -the Troia Dunes Botanical Reserve that forms part of the Sado Estuary Nature Reserve, and the Grandola Hills.

These hills are very valuable for their botany, biology and landscape, and this is the reason why they constitute a biotype classified under the Corine programme.

Today, Grandola’s Atlantic coast is one of Europe’s best examples of a coastline that has seen little development. It stretches from the tip of the Troia peninsula to Melides beach over a distance of 45 km.

It features a low coastline of sandy beaches often formed by the reddish sediments of recent escarpments. In addition to Grandola, the municipality comprises the parishes of Azinheira de Barros, Melides, Carvalhal and Santa Margarida da Serra, all of which have the typical characteristics of the Alentejo -white, pretty and peaceful.

A small but charming village which, to be fully appreciated, warrants a visit to the square in front of the church of Saint Peter. Neolithic remains are to be found near the village.

In this village you can find weavers who produce pretty wool and rag rugs on handlooms. There are also archaeological remains (the Casas Velhas necropolis and the Pedra Branca dolmen).

A pleasant village where you can admire the features of tra- d~ional Alentejan architecture Church of Our Lady of Saude, r dating from the 15th century.

Hills with their picturesque nooks overlooking the Alentejan plain. Don’t miss the Senhora da Penha mirador about 3 km from Grandola.The chapel dates from 1700 and stands at an altitude of 800 feet. Various trails are marked should you want to take a walk.

The ‘Rota da Serra” is Portugal’s most-used trail it is 15 km long and takes about 4 to 5 hours to walk. Ask for a route map at the Tourism Office.

This village grew up around the pyrite mines, now shut down and being transformed into a museum. II has a Handicraft Centre that is intended to bring back traditional skills, with various areas devoted to the manufacture and sale of the regional handicrafts. There is also a restaurant.

A village of traditional Alentejan characteristics, with its church of Our Lady of Viso dating from the 15th century. Nearby stands the megalithic monument of Pata do Cavalo -Monte das Boias -consisting of a chamber sis metres in diameter and a gallery, covered by an artificial mound of earth.

A spectacular peninsula some 18 kilometres in length, Troia is known for its vast Atlantic beach with its white sands and calm sea, mostly free of waves to satisfy the more demanding swimmers.

A major tourism centre, the northern tip, facing Setubal and the Arrabida Hills, has the necessary infrastructures for quality tourism.

Excellent hotels, apartments and bars, allied to varied sports facilities, provide peace- full weekends and unforgettable holidays.

Golf is starting to be enjoyed by numerous Portuguese. Here at Troia, the golf links have gained a considerable reputation. For golf enthusiasts, playing the game against a background formed by the surrounding sea is yet another cause of enjoyment.

The beaches are yet another part of the beauty of the Portuguese south. Troia, Comporta, Carvalhal, Gale, Aberta Nova and Melides add the beauty of the ocean to the refreshing landscape of the Arrabida Hills that can be seen in the distance.

Forty-five kilometres of sand, sun and freedom. Several beach facilities can be found on these beaches, and camping grounds lie near the beaches of Melides and Gale.

Grandola is home to varied, interesting handicrafts. At the Lousal Handicraft Centre you can find wrought iron, weaving, painted wood furniture and leatherwork.

There is in Grandola a proliferation of cork and leather goods (clothing and footwear), wrought-iron furniture and chair manufacture.

Santa Margarida da Serra is home to the manufacture of musical instruments, basket- work and trinkets made of local materials.

Canal Caveira is known for its wooden pipes carved with figures, and Carvalhal for its work using fish scales and painted pottery. The wool rugs of Vale Figueira and the earthen- ware of Melides are of very good quality.

Two fundamental aspects live side by side in the traditional cooking of the municipality of Grandola.

On the one hand, there is the influence of the Alentejo of the interior, with a predominance of soups, bread paps and dishes based on pork or lamb -such as ‘jantarinho’ a pork, lamb and chickpea stew -local produce and game.

On the other hand, there is the cooking derived from the local fishing carried out along the coast and from the proximity to major fishing ports.

There is a great variety of fish dishes, including fish soups and pasta with fish, and eels prepared in various ways, stewed, fried or as ‘ensopado’ a sort of bouillabaisse with bread.

As far as the wines are concerned, mention must be made of Pinheiro da Cruz. Sweets include the ‘alcomonias’, a sweet made of honey and aniseed or cumin, and the pine kernel sweets of Melides.

In Grandola, the Parish Church stands out amid the whiteness of the houses, with its single nave and two side chapels with their good imagery.

The late 16th century Mannerist painting of Fernando Gomes dealing with the subject of the Pentecost, the neoclassical sanctuary retable, the excellent carving and the beautiful tiles, particularly those of the frontal of the altar of the souls, are just some of the marvels to be found in the church.

The well-tended municipal gardens are shaded by trees, a shade precious in these parts, and there is a bandstand that is certain to enliven the local festivals.

Bert Snijder

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