The Bones of Évora

We left Porto for Évora in south-central Portugal, also known as the Alentejo Region, on 12 October for a one week Airbnb stay within the old walled city. Évora dates back to Roman times and there are areas outside of the city where Neolithic stone circles can be found dating back to 6,000 BC! We listened to Fado music (Portugal blues) as we drove past rolling hills of arid farm lands and miles and miles of cork oak trees.

While there are many narrow one-way lanes within the old city, we were surprised by the amount of traffic. But we persevered and enjoyed good food and wine, living within an ancient walled city for the first time, and checking out a few of the sites this city had to offer.

 
 

Cathedral of Évora 1746 – I’ll let D’s photos show you how beautiful this cathedral is...

Aqueduto da Áqua de Prata (Roman Aqueduct) – While we’ve been to Rome and traveled about in Italy, it’s always fun and somewhat amazing to see these Roman structures throughout the previously Roman conquered lands. At 5.6 miles, it was certainly very cool to see. As a matter of fact, one morning D and I hiked a bit of the route as the aqueduct left the center of the old city. It was definitely one of the highlights of the trip! We popped into a little café, Chão das Covas, for a light bite, took one look at the menu and made reservations for dinner a few nights later. It was the perfect non-touristy place to eat. We enjoyed the great food and simple ambiance Paula, the owner/chef, had put together at this hidden gem. Thanks again Paula! We only wish we had found your lovely establishment sooner.

 
 

16th century Capela dos Ossos – A historic chapel with the interior lined with human bones from thousands of people dug up from nearby cemeteries. I was surprised by how large the chapel was (61 x 36 ft.). It was interesting to see how artfully the monks displayed the bones, but it was rather macabre at the same time. When I first read the bones had been taken from burial sites, I was a bit disturbed by that. Then I found out that the cemeteries were overflowing so this project helped alleviate the space issue. After seeing the chapel, I felt that everyone displayed there would have donated their bones had they known that years later this chapel would be built and their bones would, in fact, be closer to God (the Church of St. Francis complex). The inscription in the chapel reads - We bone’s that are here await yours (the message being that life is transitory).

Wine tasting at the Ervideira tasting roomErvideira has been producing wine since 1880! At the tasting room, I was able to try their Invisible white wine made from the very red Tempranillo grape, 2 blends of Comde Reserva with one being from traditional storage methods and the same red blend stored under water (taking a nod from old wines found in shipwrecks), and finally a lovely sweet late harvest Vinha (similar to ice wine but less sweet since it doesn’t reach freezing in this region). Our Ervideira wine tasting steward made this tasting a fun and interesting experience. Thanks Isabel! The red wines alone in the Alentejo Region make this area worth the visit.

 
 

Palace of the Dukes of Cadaval – we weren’t here to see the palace, but the Cadaval family chapel the Church of the Lóios fully lined in blue azulejos tiles. We had the chapel to ourselves and it was a beauty to see. There was an exhibit of clothing designer Agatha Ruiz De La Prada of Spain, not Prada of Italy, that made a so, so palace tour fun and quirky.

1st century AD, Roman Templo de Évora ruins of 14 Corinthian columns from the Roman days – Now, for a big disappointment - it was completely under cover as they are in the process of stabilizing the columns.

 
 

While the Roman temple being closed was a disappointment, we know this happens from time to time as all the old stuff needs to be taken care for the future, so a good reason to come back. Then we could stop by Paula’s restaurant again – hmm, perhaps we should stay for a few dinners now that we know about it. And if that’s not enough, how about outside of Évora where the Neolithic monuments sit, wineries are plentiful, and of course where one can visit nearby towns! So much to see and do and so little time.

Thanks for joining our journey.
Stay tuned,
DaM