© Manuela Sousa, Brinches Village

AROUND THE MUNICIPALITY’S

TOWNS AND VILLAGES

In addition to the city of Serpa, the municipality offers numerous points of interest. If you prefer urban spaces, you can visit its towns and villages and get to know in greater detail the everyday life of their residents.

Strolling through the streets, filled with beautiful white houses with their colourful frames, sensing everyday life, snacking in a tavern, discovering small nooks, admiring churches and chapels or resting on the peaceful squares allow you to feel the pulse of local life. The parish seats, with their greater size and dynamics, deserve a more extended visit.

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PIAS

 

In Pias is worth noting the church square and the beautiful panoramic view of the village that it offers, with the Bell Tower - erected in the nineteenth century as part of a church that never got completed - in clear evidence. 

 

On the same square you’ll find the local Agricultural Society. A visit will reveal the details of the winemaking process and the institution’s old distillery and corresponding equipment, all of them heritage of the Pias wine history. You can complement this visit with a trip to the Parish Council’s rural museum. 2 km out of Pias, on the road to Moura, is worth visiting the sixteenth-century chapel of Santa Luzia (Saint Lucia).

© Manuela Sousa

With a little luck, you can watch the rehearsal of the Choral and Ethnographic Group "Os Camponeses de Pias" at its headquarters, a tavern located on the town’s main street, on the road that connects Serpa to Moura. The taverns were always the place where the men sang the Alentejo cante but, ever since this one was bought by the Camponeses, the singing is even more present.

(know more about the Cante route)

© CMS, Cante Route

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THE VILLAGE OF BRINCHES

 

stands out for the antiquity of its history (its name derives from the wool cloths that were made there during Roman times. Vestiges of the old fulling mill used to treat the wool can still be seen). It presents a curious diversity of more erudite buildings, from the late nineteenth century to the 1950s, along with the usual vernacular constructions typical of the Alentejo. Among the most notable stands out the beautiful mother church, of late-medieval construction, with a lovely mannerist portal, located on the highest point of the village, in a square framed by beautiful two-storey ground-floor houses.

 

At the entrance of Brinches, along the Serpa road, you can see the Nossa Senhora da Consolação (Our Lady of Consolation) church, built during the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries, on the place where, according to legend, the image of this saint appeared on top of an olive tree. Two weeks after Easter the saint is honoured with processions in the village and between the mother church and the smaller church.

© Manuela Sousa

Near Brinches is the Orada mine, a site abandoned in 1971 that progressively filled up with rainwater. The large crater became a huge lake with beautiful colours. The mine is fenced off to prevent any accidents and there are several no-swimming signs that must be obeyed.

The Old Watermills are located in this parish, on the left bank of the Guadiana River. In one of them you can see the stacked stone building, the weir and the floodgate enclosures. This is an area of the Guadiana that is especially beautiful and well suited to the practice of canoeing. Strolling through the lovely holm oak montado along the banks is also a good option.

THE ORIGINS OF VILA NOVA DE SÃO BENTO DATE BACK TO THE FOURTEENTH CENTURY

 

when the Friars of the Military Order of Avis settled in Serpa by order of King Dinis and founded Montes da Abóbada, Cabeço de Vaqueiros and Fonte dos Cantos. According to legend, São Bento (Saint Benedict) protected the inhabitants of the village in the victorious combat against the more numerous Castilian soldiers.


The most important monuments are the Mother Church, a Baroque temple rebuilt in the early twentieth century, the baroque church of São Bento located near the cemetery and the Chapel of Nossa Senhora do Desterro (Our Lady of Exile) in Herdade da Abóbada.

The feast of São Sebastião (Saint Sebastian), held on 20th January, the feast of Santas Cruzes (Holy Crosses) in early May – with its processions where branches of lavender are used to cover the course - or the annual fair of the last weekend of July in homage to the Patron Saint are the best moments to experience the culture of the local communities.

(click on the photos to expand and check the credits)

VILA VERDE DE FICALHO, THE MOST DISTANT PARISH OF SERPA

 

(it is very close to Spain), is known for its olive oil, olives, honey and wine, products that can be purchased there.

 

The name Ficalho probably derived from the combination of the words Finis + Calle, by some interpreted as the end of the journey for the knights who made the ride between Pax Julia (Beja) and Arucci Vetus (Aroche) and by others as the end of the road, due to the need to cross the river.

 
It is believed that its origins date back to the Palaeolithic, although most of the archaeological finds are from the Roman period. The settlement was formed in 1232, the year King Sancho II conquered the entire left bank of the Guadiana, and was the seat of the municipality until 1836.

The eighteenth century Mother Church, located in a long square framed by beautiful single-storey houses, is especially noteworthy.

(click on the photos to expand and check the credits)

The Ficalho Museum is the right place to get to know some of the artefacts related to the community's agricultural activities as well as some religious objects.

2km out of the village, on a small crest surrounded by an extraordinary holm oak montado, one of the most beautiful in the municipality, is the Nossa Senhora das Pazes (Our Lady of Peace) church, built in the sixteenth century. 

The Adiça and Ficalho mountain ranges, which extend to the north, are also worthy of a visit. To reach the highest point, the "Talefe", you’ll have to go on foot, using animal tracks or crossing the dense shrub cover.

2km out of the village, on a small crest surrounded by an extraordinary holm oak montado, one of the most beautiful in the municipality, is the Nossa Senhora das Pazes (Our Lady of Peace) church, built in the sixteenth century. 

The Adiça and Ficalho mountain ranges, which extend to the north, are also worthy of a visit. To reach the highest point, the "Talefe", you’ll have to go on foot, using animal tracks or crossing the dense shrub cover.

VALE DE VARGO

is located on the banks of the Enxoé, a tributary of the Guadiana River. It belonged to the municipality of Moura until the liberal reform and was once part of Pias. There are countless traces of the settlement of human communities in its territory since Roman times. The parish church of São Sebastião (Saint Sebastian) is Vale de Vargo’s most interesting building. With its popular characteristics, it consists of differentiated volumes, of great austerity and solidity, and was built on a small hillock in the late sixteenth century, having undergone several reconstructions since then. The portico, with Gothic features, and the vaulted main chapel are especially interesting. This temple probably replaced another that existed there in Visigothic times. In terms of built heritage, are also worthy of note the remnants of what is thought to have been an old medieval manor. Behind the Casa do Povo we can still see the fourteenth-century facade with its ogival door; however, nothing else remains of the original house.

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(click on the photos to check the credits)

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© fb.com/aldeia.dopinto

VALE MORTOS

Located in one of the quietest areas of the Alentejo, right in the heart of the Serpa mountain range, we find Vales Mortos. Its origin dates back to the second half of the nineteenth century; its urbanism, characterised by an orthogonal plan, was surely influenced by the industrialist rationalism of the neighbouring industrial area established by the English. According to tradition, the settlement’s first hut was built in what is now Rua Larga and the first rammed earth houses in the Paimogo and Serpa streets. Here, and in the surroundings, one can still admire large rammed earth constructions, either residences or work spaces, which show that this technique allowed larger buildings than the usual single-storey dwellings. Its location, and namely the fact that it is on the way to the São Domingos mines, was probably a decisive factor in the settlement of some population, which named the newly created place Aldeia do Pica-Teles, probably after one of the first residents. It was later renamed Vales Mortos. Although unproven, it is thought that the toponym came from the fact that the surrounding valleys were not cultivated, but used for the production of honey (apiaries).

SANTA IRIA

is adjacent to the road that connects Serpa to Mina de São Domingos. A small town nestled in a narrow valley crossed by the initial section of the Limas River, its parish church (devoted to the patron saint, Saint Irene) is one of the municipality’s most important monuments. Classified a Property of Public Interest, it is a small temple of great structural simplicity and vernacular character, characterised as Alentejo late Gothic architecture, with vestiges of parietal art.

© Alentejo T

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(click on the photos to check the credits)

VALE DO POÇO

is a small community created to take advantage of the proximity to water and the existence of some farmed valleys and grazing slopes, in an intermediate point of the road that connects Vales Mortos to Mina de São Domingos, due to the large size of the resident population in that area between the end of the nineteenth century and the first half of the twentieth century. Nowadays, its main event is the Feira Agropecuária Transfronteiriça (Cross-Border Agricultural Fair), in early September, which brings together local producers - especially sheep breeders - and producers from neighbouring Spanish towns to promote their products and enjoy a musical and cultural programme. A fair to visit!

A-DO-PINTO

is the example of a locality that grew from a local type of farm (the "monte") and still uses the patronymic of the original family, as often happens in the Alentejo. Located on the route between Serpa and Ficalho, increasingly travelled after the establishment of Aldeia Nova de São Bento, it preserves some interesting buildings and vernacular elements; among the most modern stands out the Primary School, an example of the infrastructures built for the celebration of the Centenaries of the Portuguese Nation in the 1940s. Its large scale reveals - as in many others around the country - the much higher number of residents who lived there before the mechanization of regional agriculture, since the vast and fertile fields around the village surely required a lot of manpower.

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(click on the photos to check the credits)

USEFUL LINKS:

 

In the following texts you can find further information on some of these locations, in order to plan your visit:


Panoramic chapels and landscapes that go on forever

The Ficalho Mountain Range

Canoeing trail, down this river

Bicycle trails

The Brinches hiking trails

The Vila Verde de Ficalho hiking trails

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