The day was clear and we set off to visit Abrantes and enjoy the Alentejo countryside.
Abrantes was settled by the Celts as early as 300BC, ‘visited’ by the Romans, held by the Moors, and finally taken by the Portuguese in mid-1100s. Then in 1173 the Castle and the region were donated to the Order of Saint James of the Sword. There were several more changes of ownership. The strategic importance of the town is obvious, positioned on a considerable hill overlooking the Tagus which was important for gold, water, trade, and in a fertile plain.
My understanding is that there has always been a stronghold on the site of the castle. In the Middle Ages this was part of the defensive system of the Tagus, together with Almourol, Castelo Branco, Monsanto, and others. In the 17C the King decided to remodel the castle in the style of a Vauban fort, adding on secondary walls. Further works and strengthening of the defences continued until the 20C
The town has the usual narrow, winding streets, but there are also elegant buildings and quiet squares with cafés serving excellent coffee and pasteis de nata!
The drive back to Flor da Rosa was beautiful and varied: pine trees, eucalyptus, cork oaks, and the wide open spaces of the Alentejo with the wild flowers just starting to open.
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