What’s more Portuguese than a typical mountain high village?
Considered the most Portuguese village of all Portugal, Monsanto is hidden away in Idanha-a-Velha (Old-Idanha), a part of the municipality of Idanha-a-Nova (New-Idanha), in the district of Castelo Branco (literally White Castle); it a famous historical village known for its unique architecture, its location at the foot of a mountain and traditional Portuguese cuisine. There is an extraordinary mix of the natural landscape and a historic village which makes it a one-of-a-kind place to visit in Portugal.. Monsanto is one of those places that justifies a one-day trip to experience the most Portuguese village that Portugal has to offer.
It is a little over a three-hour drive from the centre of Porto municipal, with enough time to spare several pit stops and even having a small road trip through the interior of the centre region, for example, Espinho, Santa Maria da Feira, São Pedro do Sul, Viseu and Guarda. But that is for another time.
Monsanto (Mons Sanctus), where the highest point (758 metres) and oldest part, was used by the templars. Not only have these religious warriors passed through here, but also there is a Lusitanian fort and the remains of Roman occupation. It was presumably a roman village and there are ruins of four granite tombs, which although not a tourist hot spot, it is nonetheless an intriguing place to explore, located at the Roman Archaeological Station of São Lourenço.
What to see, what to eat, what to take as a reminder of the adventure
The main attraction is the dramatic castle nestled in the steep slopes where one can observe the village’s old watchtowers and ruins of the wall belt surrounding the city.
It is marked by the annual Festa de Santa Cruz on the first Sunday of May, whereupon the walls of the castle it is laid flower vases and the women of the village take up to the towers the traditional and famous rag dolls, Marafonas. This doll has no eyes or mouth, or nose, or even ears, it is dressed in a traditional colourful regional costume. The Marafonas are used to celebrate fertility and conjugal happiness.
How to end a perfect day, as the sun comes down, if not to visit several amazing restaurants the village has to offer. With the best view paired with the most delicious and typical food of the dishes, I offer Petiscos e Granitos (Snacks and Granites), which I have personally been to, and it is to die for. It is in the middle of a street that only seems to go higher and higher, marked by a red door, it has a terrace with the view stretching kilometres of plains untouched by the human hand, review by some as unusual and unique, the black pork with typical and punched potatoes is a most. Well truth is, every restaurant will offer jaw-dropping views, the question is what its visitors will want to feast in. For example, in Taverna Lusitana it is served traditional toast, made with the fluffiest bread, typical to Monsanto and honestly the kind of bread one will find at any Portuguese village, combined with a pint of beer, there is no perfect end to a day, but I would suggest this is very close.
The search for the room with the best view of the plains
Even though a trip to Monsanto can be summed up as a one-day trip, if the visitors fall in love with this place, which it will be certainly almost impossible not to, there is this small house, decorated as it was from the 50s in Portugal, but transpiring Victorian architecture on the inside, Casa de David, is one of those places for a one day stay, just to recharge the batteries and wake up to the sun rising between mountains. Or perhaps a more comfortable but expensive option is Casa do Castello Monsanto, with a terrace where its visitors will wake up with breakfast as the sun shines above, perfect for a romantic couples gateway and balconies to watch the night sky before a day exploring the small village.
There is no better way to sum this historic Portuguese village than to give the last sneak peek of the hundreds of view spots to prolong the meditation state Monsanto will produce in its visitors. It is right for every age and state of mind, certainly leaving strings and a promise left by travellers to return to this peaceful solace.