Serpa is another of those towns in the east of Portugal’s Alentejo which is relatively unknown to tourists – people travel to the Algarve, or Porto, or Lisbon, but the Alentejo remains hidden and undiscovered. Restless Jo wrote a marvellous post on the town recently – do read it! I didn’t do Serpa justice and just would like to share a few memories with you here.
The town is on a hilltop, walled, and with a castle (of course, this is Portugal and near the border with Spain!). And like many of these sites it was settled c.400BC by the original inhabitants of the area, the Turdelos, occupied by the Romans and the Moors and finally retaken by the Portuguese and fortified by King Dinis – who else!
There were originally five gates into the town; this Moura Gateway is one of the three which I saw as we walked through the streets.
The walls are surmounted by an impressive 11C aqueduct (Moorish?) on the west side of the town, with a 17C pumping station at one end, used to supply water to the Manor House of the Counts of Ficalho.
The Castle has a long history of defending the town and the border and is now home to an interesting small archaeological museum.
The Count of Ficalho Manor House backs on to the walls, with an impressive square in front of the house. It looked rather delapidated and I imagine would make a wonderful home, or small hotel if renovated. Buildings like this, and those around the Praça da Republica point to a prosperous history.
I would love to return to this small town to properly investigate the churches, buildings, castle, and museums… Do stop by if you are in the area, and do read Restless Jo’s post!