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New ideas for Industrial tourism in Portugal: Wines, Mines and Marble!

Industrial tourism is a new idea where you visit places linked to industries that were common in a particular place, such as wine, agriculture and mining.

Travelers love to see how things are made, like gin at the Black Pig Distillery, in Santiago do Cacém, near the Atlantic coast. Today the Alentejo region has a total of 30 industrial tourism resources in a new network, ranging from the mining industry — marble quarries (Rota do Mármore, Vila Viçosa), and salt and sand extraction (Rio Maior) — to the agri-food industry at Sumol/Compal (Almeirim), olive oils at Oliveira da Serra (Ferreira do Alentejo) and a coffee science center (Campo Maior). Visitors can also see the traditional manta blankets from Fábrica Alentejana de Lanifícios (Reguengos de Monsaraz).

Exploring heritage through "know-how” is a way to get to understand and experience the old way of doing things: From how to make wine in a clay talha, or how marble is quarried, or how old mines worked.  

And the special sauce of the trend is special access, unique experiences with private guides, this trend is booming in the South of Portugal.  Not determined by seasonality, with facilities that can often be visited throughout the year — even in winter, as is the case of olive oil production, where the harvest months fall between November and January.

The Alentejo also offers a unique Industrial tourism itinerary based on centuries of marble heritage and industrial architecture that includes five Alentejo towns: Borba, Alandroal, Vila Viçosa, Estremoz and Sousel. Based in Vila Viçosa, in the heart of marble country, the route offers visits to working the quarries, the processing industry, the artisan stonemasons’ workshops, marble monuments and architectural heritage, as well as experiencing the region's cuisine and wines. 

The massive marble quarries are the main focus of this tour that brings guests to the rim of quarries that go hundreds of feet into the earth, where some of the finest marble in the world is being extracted. They learn about the growth of the industry, its local impact, and the use of new technologies. Then, they get to see how it is cut, processed and polished at marble mills-with unfettered access. Another tour takes guests into towns like Vila Viçosa, where millennia of marble architecture are on display from castles to places to sidewalks to great churches. The Marble Route offers a rare and unique insight into an industrial environment, which provides visitors with a special experience and access to the marble industry.

The longest urban mining route in Portugal is available in and around Aljustrel for both hiking to being able to visit and explore the mining town’s mining past. The route, where there is access to the former mining complex, the urban spaces where workers live and the rural landscape, allows the guest to get to know the impact of mining on foot, taking walkers through the main places of interest in the once booming mining town. Among the sites, there is the town of Aljustrel which grew up around the mines, the mining complex and the sanctuary of Nossa Senhora do Castelo. In the town historic center, there is a parish church and a museum, and, in the mining park, you can see the left over mining debris, the Transtagana chimney and the Vipasca malacate mine elevator and visit the old mining gallery as well as the museum in the Central de Compressores.

Mining at the town of São Domingos site dates back to before the arrival of the Romans. Among countryside and flooded mining pits, this small village has shops, inns and eateries, near its former copper mine alongside old miners' cottages. In 1858 a new mining company Mason & Barry set up shop, and stayed until 1965. Pits went 120 meters, and mining tunnels down up to 400 meters.  One old worker dormitory has been turned into a modern hotel, while another is now a museum dedicated to miner life. An English cemetery guards the remains of British managers who were not Catholics. Guided tours are offered.

The wines of the Alentejo are one of the great discoveries to be had in Portugal, with its rich, bold red wines, with good body and dark color-velvety and ready to drink from an early age.
These are wines with a concentration of fruit and a lot of flavor. The region produces some of the best wines in the country, such as the Tapada de Coelheiros and Quinta do Carmo, wines of great class and elegance.

There are around 70 wineries that can be visited in Alentejo. It is impossible to visit them all in a short space of time, but rather, use the wine route to plan your trip. At local wineries, which often allow tours to be booked online for a small fee — you can learn about the soil, the grapes and the traditions. Then, the mix of old and new tech in modern wineries, and the innovation that has made the region’s wine so special. Tasting will include a tour of the winery, as well as a tasting. But in the August to September harvest time, visit need to be booked well in advance.

Olive oil tastings are a new adventure in the Alentejo, a region rich in olive groves.  Olive trees have been part of the Alentejo landscape for thousands of years, and some date back centuries.

But, now you can also visit olive groves and learn about the process by which olives are harvested and turned into world-class oil.

Today, olive farms like Amor é Cego Olive Oil in Azaruja offer fun tasting programs. On a visit, discover the history of the farm, learn about Galega olives, native to the region, and taste great extra virgin Galega olive oil in an olive grove. Tasting olive oil is a fun way to understand the product, how it is made, and how different oils have different flavors.
The olive oil tasting takes place on the farm where the olive trees are grown, close to Évora.

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