It was MrB who suggested we visited Serpa, and what a find it proved to be. An hour’s drive from Mértola this sleepy city is full of history and like Mértola it’s another Alentejan gem. Even the outskirts are beautiful, however it is the old town that had drawn us here. We had specifically come to see a rather unusual piece of 17th century engineering, and I will be sharing lots more on that one day soon. Today though as it is a Monday and therefore time for Jo’s Monday Walks I thought I’d take you on a short walk inside the old city walls.
We began in the south east corner as this is where you will find the amazing piece of 17th century engineering. We first caught a glimpse of it as we walked down this typical Portuguese street. Can you see it right at the end? No worries if not as you can see it closer up in the photographs of the very impressive gateway – Portas de Beja. I’ll also be sharing more on it in another post very soon. By the way we did love the fact that most of the Christmas decorations were still up!
Serpa is only a few miles from Spain and consequently like many of the Portuguese border villages and towns Serpa has strong defences and a rich past dating back to pre-history. The current walls and castle are believed to date from the 13th century, and would have replaced the mud walls of a previous Moorish castle and walls. The walls survived in good repair until the War of Spanish Succession; when the Spanish as they withdrew from Portugal in the early 18th century used gunpowder to destroy one of the towers. For the next 200 odd years Serpa’s castle and walls were allowed to fall into a state of disrepair. Fortunately though in the mid 20th century a decision was taken by the Portuguese government to restore sections, and further work was undertaken in the 1970s and 1980s. The restoration work was done very sympathetically as at the time of our visit we simply assumed it was all original.
MrB wasn’t feeling 100% on the day we visited and so unfortunately we were unable to stay for lunch and sample Serpa’s famous cheese, nor could we wait to see if the castle would re-open after 3. However unlike the tourist who parked his car in the middle of the road, and then rushed up the steps to photograph the clock tower and the main church before whizzing off again, we did get to see the rather daunting entrance to the castle! Just look at the collapsed wall, I wonder if this was the tower the Spanish blew up?
We very much enjoyed meandering through the streets of the old town even when the skies turned cloudy. I am not sure that tourist would have enjoyed it as much as us. Not only was he rushing about but driving on Serpa’s cobbled streets in the old town isn’t easy as the streets are rather twisty and very very narrow in places. Far better to park in one of the lovely squares just outside the walls and then stroll around. We will definitely be returning here next year for a longer visit, even if it just to find more lovely signs and dragons!