segunda-feira, janeiro 16

Vila Viçosa - Calipole - Princess of Alentejo

Vila Viçosa has always been rightly considered a jewel in the treasure chest of Alentejo, so it is hardly surprising to find that it has often been included in royal dowries and endowments.

Dona Brites, the wife of King Afonso IV, was the first to receive it as a wedding present, followed by Leonor Teles, King Fernando's lover who was hated by the people of Lisbon, and was later presented to Nuno Álvares Pereira, the heroic general of King João I.

There is much natural and man made beauty in town, which covers an area of less than 200 square km. It is easy to reach the conclusion that the natural beauty inspired men to continue to be creative, as the town's rich cultural heritage would not have been enlarged and improved as it has been over the centuries.

In today's industrial age, nature is still the driving force behind the production of the beautiful pieces of ornamental stone, besides the marble which has long been the mainstay of the local economy.

Vila Viçosa will satisfy the demands of the most refined visitor. Historical episodes abound in the churches, convents and palaces, while wild boar and deer run free in the royal hunting grounds "Tapada Real". As you can no doubt guess, the traditional cuisine of the Alentejo reaches its high point here, with special emphasis on cakes and desserts, above all "Tibornas".

The Ducal Palace (picture above) - This was the former residence of the Dukes of Braganza from the beginning of the 16th century and was commenced in 1501-1502 (the north wing) and completed in the 18th century. The main façade is completely covered with local marble and takes Italian Renaissance architecture as its inspiration.

The building has three floors and each one, from the ground floor to the last, corresponds to one of the classical orders: Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian.

Within the fifty rooms open to the public are housed precious private art collections and extremely rare books which originally belonged to King Manuel II, Portugal's last reigning monarch.

The art collection includes paintings by the best Portuguese artists of last century, Flemish and French tapestries, frescoes on walls and ceilings, furniture, porcelain from the Far East, Portugal, Italy and other countries, old armor including some very rare pieces made in the Far East, Portugal, Germany, France, etc.

In the Library, which houses over 50,000 volumes and has a public reading room, there is a reserved collection of old Portuguese printed books (15th and 16th century), amongst which are to be found first editions of Os Lusíadas (1572), Comentários ao Pentateuco (1489), Vita Christi (1495), Almanaque de Abrado Zacuto (1496), Livro de Marco Paulo (1502), Tratado da Esfera by Pedro Nunes (1537), etc.

Palace square - This open and airy square, with a total area of about sixteen thousand square meters is one of the most beautiful ones in the country. It is situated at the entrance of this noble and aristocratic town, when entering from Borba, Estremoza and the border town of Elvas. To its right are the Royal Chapel and the Palace gardens.

All this is waiting for You, at Vila Viçosa - Alentejo - Portugal!