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A Culinary and Natural Odyssey: Olive Oil in the Serra de São Mamede

Fancy a journey through the captivating mountain landscapes and rich cultural tapestry of Portugal’s Serra de São Mamede? Want to explore a place the artistry of olive oil production intertwines with centuries-old traditions? If you love olive oil, mountain vistas and a walled town - this might be the travel destination for you.

The Serra de São Mamede is a high mountain range located in the Northeast of the Alentejo region of Portugal. Rising along the border with Spain, this natural park  is renowned for its rugged beauty, diverse ecosystems, and cultural heritage. And, its olive oil, too.

Alentejo olive oil is renowned for its exceptional quality and flavor. Portugal's Atlantic climate, with its hot, dry summers and mild, rainy winters, provides optimal conditions for olive cultivation. The diverse microclimates found in inland mountainous areas impart distinct flavors and aromas to the olives, resulting in a wide range of olive oils with varying profiles. Some of the most common local olive varieties include Galega, Cobrançosa, Picual, and Arbequina. The blending of different olive varieties often results in complex and well-balanced oils with layers of flavor.

Exploring Alentejo's Olive Oil Heritage

Begin your adventure with a glimpse into the roots of Alentejo's olive oil cottage  industry in the village of Galegos. At the Melara Picado Nunes - Lagar Museum, step into the fascinating history of olive oil production in the Marvão region. From traditional presses to modern innovations, witness the evolution of this golden wonder. After the tour, have a tasting of the local olive oils and regional delicacies for lunch in the olive oil press.

The Story of a Family Legacy:

Travel back in time to the tiny village of Galegos set right on the Spanish border. Here the Nunes family's legacy of olive oil production spans generations, from Francisco Nunes' visionary work to António Melara Nunes' modernization efforts - each chapter of the family's journey set in tradition. Today, under António Melara Nunes' stewardship, the Castelo Marvão olive oil continues to enchant palates worldwide, while honoring the village's storied past. After the tour, ,tantalize your taste buds with Alentejo cuisine, where olive oil takes center stage in dishes like bacalhau com natas and migas, each bite a celebration of local flavors.

Beyond Olive Groves

Venture beyond the olive groves to discover the charm of Alentejo's villages. First find serenity amidst nature's embrace as you hike the scenic trails of Serra de São Mamede. Breathe in the crisp mountain air, look out at panoramic vistas, and let the tranquil beauty of the landscape rejuvenate your spirit. Whether you seek adventure or relaxation, this region offers an idyllic retreat.

Outdoor activities include

Hiking: The Serra de São Mamede is crisscrossed with a network of well marked hiking trails, offering breathtaking views of the surrounding countryside. Trails vary in difficulty, catering to hikers of all skill levels.

Mountain Biking: Explore the rugged terrain of the mountain range on two wheels, with marked mountain biking routes weaving through forests, valleys, and hillsides.

Birding: The Serra de São Mamede has diverse habitats attracting a wide variety of bird species, including eagles, vultures, and owls.
Rock Climbing: Test your skills on the granite cliffs and crags of the Serra de São Mamede, with climbing routes suitable for both beginners and experienced climbers.

Then, visit the town next door - Marvão's - with whitewashed houses, narrow cobblestone streets, and charming squares. The castle, perched at the highest point of the walled village, offers sweeping views of the surrounding countryside. From the castle walls or the town's elevated vantage points, you can gaze out over rolling hills, green valleys, and olive groves stretching to the border. At sunrise or sunset, the landscape is bathed in golden light, creating a truly magical ambiance.

The Past: In the 12th century, during the period of the Reconquista, forces from the Kingdom of Portugal began to take territory from the Arabs. Marvão was re- fortified and became an important defensive stronghold along the border with Spain. Over the centuries, Marvão's defensive fortifications were expanded and reinforced, culminating in the construction of fortified walls that still stand today. These structures served to protect the town from invasions and sieges, earning Marvão a reputation as an impregnable fortress.

Have a swim in the River Pool at Portagem, a picturesque natural swimming spot located near Marvão. Surrounded by towering cliffs, dense forests, and rocky outcrops, the pool is set within a verdant valley, fed by the clear waters of the Sever River. The water is cool and refreshing, with a gentle current and flat bottom. The name "Portagem'' derives from the Portuguese word for toll, reflecting the area's historical role as a crossing point on the Sever River. In centuries past, travelers would pay a toll to cross the river at this location.

Responsible Travel in Alentejo

Embrace the ethos of sustainable tourism by supporting local producers and artisans. Purchase olive oil directly from small-scale farmers and cooperatives, ensuring your contribution to the preservation of Alentejo's cultural heritage. Engage with olive growers respectfully, honoring their traditions and fostering meaningful connections that transcend language barriers.

Embark on a trip to where olive groves become the backdrop in the mountains of the Alentejo. The Serra de São Mamede is a relaxed gem, offering a unique blend of beauty, heritage, and adventure. Whether you're seeking hiking or a quiet retreat in nature, this enchanting mountain range has something for everyone.

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