ALENTEJO

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Memories never to forget

It is open space that appears to have no end. It is colours and smells that burst from the earth. It is the unmistakeable outline of rural architecture, present in the "montes” (farm complexes) of the great estates, in the oldest rows of houses in the cities, towns and villages or in the chapels, which paint with white the tops of hills. It is what is gleaned from the ways of being and doing, from the arts and skills that are conserved and renewed, from the tradition that is maintained and recreated, from the "choral chanting” that, with heart and soul, only the Alentjans know how to sing.

But the rural quality of the Alentejo of the 21st century is not exhausted in simply "country matters”. Through the not always positive changing fortunes of its history, this Region has preserved what today confers on it a value full of future promise: the smallness and environmental quality of its urban centres, the human scale, the silence, the peacefulness, the freedom, the freshness of the air we breathe. It is time. A way that is so peculiar of understanding time, making us feel under our skins that, finally, it is possible to live time in this dizzying world, allowing it to be exactly what it is: the most precious of our possessions.

In the Alentejo there are dozens of small ethnographical museums (or núcleos de etnografia of municipal museums) which preserve memories of the traditional house, of trades, crafts and skills that have disappeared, of tools and implements that have fallen into disuse, of the life of villages and of their customs.

They have been built up with so much love and devotion, almost always relying on pieces donated by the inhabitants. Whenever you come across one, you should visit it. But among the many that could be called the most interesting, there are three you should not miss: the Museu do Chocalho (livestock-bell museum) in Alcáçovas, with more than 3,000 bells, each with its own sound, installed in the workshop of Sr. João Penetra, a professional bell maker; the Museu Etnográfico in Serpa, with its permanent exhibition ("Workshops of the Land”; and the Museu Etnográfico e Arqueológico in Santa Clara-a-Nova (Almodôvar), which offers an exceptional creation, with life-size figures, of the everyday life of the village. In Santa Clara, also visit the povoado (hamlet) da Mesa de Castelinhos and, in Almodôvar, the unexpected Museu da Escrita do Sudoeste the Sudlusitanian-Tartessian Writing Museum), believed to be the first written expression in the Iberian Peninsula.

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From Farm to Table
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Alentejo Museum Guide
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Time to be Happy
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