Alcacer do Sal
Man has continuously occupied the land that now forms the municipality of Alcacer do Sal for more than 5,000 years. During the Iron Age, its people were in contact with those who sailed the Mediterranean, and it was know at the time as Eviom: Roman occupation confirmed its economic and political importance, and it was granted permission to mint its own coin, rights equal to those of the cities of Ancient Latium, known as Salatia Urbs Imperatoria. Following the decline of the Roman Empire, it became a Visigothic Episcopal city and then one of the most powerful Moorish strongholds of the Iberian Peninsula. King Afonso Henriques (Afonso I) was successful in taking the city in 1158, but the Moors occupied it once again in 1191. It was taken for the last tin1e by the Christians only in 1217, and was granted a charter by King Afonso II in 1218. It was in this town that, in 1495, D. Manuel learned of the death of his cousin, King Joao II and of his acclamation as king of Portugal. Here, too, he celebrated his marriage to the princess Maria of Castile at the church of the Espirito Santo. In 1516, King Manuel confirmed the ancient charter. Alcacer had its share of illustrious children, including Pedro Nunes, mathematician and astronomer (16th century) and Bemardim Ribeiro, the writer born in the town of Torrao (15th century). In 1833, Alcacer witnessed one of the many battles between the Liberals and the Absolutist faction of King Miguel. Following the decrease of the importance of the salterns, Alcacer do Sal is now engaged in agriculture and animal husbandry, with particular emphasis on the production of rice, cork and pine kernels.
The still imposing walls of its castle constitute a lasting symbol of the traditional economic and political importance of Alcacer do Sal. The bellic fame of this fortification dates from long ago. It is thought to have withstood an assault in 966 by the much-feared Viking fleet. A Moorish bastion since the 7th century, it was conquered with no little difficulty, by king Afonso Henriques in 1158, and it was the stage for successive fighting between Christians and Moors until 1217 , when its was put under tbe authority of the Portuguese crown once and for all. ; Within its walls, one can admire interesting traces of the various eras and occupants. The D. Afonso II Pousada is located here.
The municipality of Alcacer do Sal is a place of wide horizons. Both on the river and on the plain, a more careful gaze will reveal another dimension. White villages are scattered through- out the landscape, providing a view of a different way of living. The Pego do Altar and Vale de Gaio dams offer the pleasure of water and of the blue vastness. A visit to Comporta reveals the link between the Alentejo and the sea, along an Atlantic front that stretches out along tens of kilometres, awaiting discovery. Alcacer do Sal is also one of the "ports of call" of the Lands of the Enchanted Moor itinerary-exhibition that addresses Islamic art from those places where there are still traces of this fundamental period of our past. This initiative brings Alcacer do Sa1 into the international partnership that is organising the Museum without Frontiers - Islamic Art in the Mediterranean project.
From a hill in the Sado Estuary Natural Reserve there is an excellent view over the river, Tr6ia, Setubal, the Arrabida Hills and Cavalo Island. Archaeological traces from the Roman era can also be observed.
CARRASQUEIRA This village is also located within the Sado Estuary Natural Reserve and is inhabited by fisher folk. A rather curious palafilte fishing harbour, providing a good view over the mudflats of the estuary.
COMPORTA BEACH One of the outstanding bathing spots in the region, this magnificent beach offers a long stretch of white sand giving on to the clear waters of the Atlantic.
PROTECTED NATURE THE SADO ESTUARY NATURAL RESERVE
With its calm lagoons, the blue of the river and the green of the pines, this charming natural reserve covers an area of 23,160 hectares. It is truly worthy of long, enriching walks. Consisting mainly of wetlands, with their channels, inlets and marshes, the Reserve also has banks interesting for their biological wealth and for the diversity of their animal life. Porpoise, otter, badger and fox fall under the gaze of the visitors in competition with about 100 species of birds, of which the white storks, the marsh harriers, the herons and the flamingos are outstanding for their elegance. The fertility and richness of the region covered by the Reserve have warranted its occupation by mankind since the Neolithic. People essentially living off fishing and gathering shellfish settled here some 5,000 years ago, setting up villages on spits of sand then still bathed by the Atlantic. There are traces of Roman presence that can still be admired at the Pinheiro Estate, for example, where kilns can be found that were used by a large pottery industry that prospered here between the 1st and 4th centuries of our era. Trips along the calm waters of the Sado by balloon or by boat are an admirable way to view this natural sanctuary.
THE HORSES AND THE BULLS
Horses and bulls have long been linked to the region of Alcacer do Sal, and bull- breeding has a long tradition in the municipality. One of the great names of Portuguese bullfighting, Joao Branco Nuncio, had his estate here. During the October Feira Nova (New Fair), an annual event of popular tradition dating back to the 14th century, and during PIMEL bullfights are organised, involving major names in bullfighting and bull-breeding, attended by a large number of fans.
Oases of freshness, the Pego do Altar and Vale de Gaio dams are well suited to various water sports -angling, sailing and windsurf - as well as to active or "adventure" tourism. The Vale de Gaio dam also provides excellent facilities at its Pousada, a magnificent place to rest and to spend a few days discovering the beauty spots of the municipality.
ARCHITECTURE THE BLUE AND THE WHITE
Serene and of an elegance made of simplicity, Alentejan architecture sits well with the wide horizons of the plains to whid1 it belongs. Here the living white of the whitewash dominates one's gaze and reflects the bright light of the sun, interrupted only by the discrete blue of the door and window surrounds and by the sudden verticality of its chimneys. Everything in these houses, with their pure lines, tells us of an ancient harmony between the plain, man and the clean light of the sun. Glittering white amid wheat fields, cork oaks and orange trees, the villages of Santa Susana and Torrao are worth a visit, beautiful evidence of the art of living. At Santa Susana take a look at the church with its paintings on wood, dating from the 1st half of the 16th century. At Torrao, a typical Alentejan town, admire the white houses and the squares adorned with the enchantment of the orange trees. See also the chapel of Nossa Senhora do Bom Sucessos and the Parish Church, a national monument of Manueline design, with its 17th century tiles in the sanctuary. The Monte da Tumba archaeological remains from the Bronze Age constitute an interesting historic landmark.
VALE DE GAIO DAM
A fine spot for sailing, windsurfing and angling. Near the water is the splendid Pousada, an invitation to rest and to visit the region.
PEGO DO ALTAR DAM
Another of the region's inviting dams. Between the woods and the blue sky, the mirrored surface of the water lends itself to the pleasures and challenges of water sports.
Typical Alentejan town, with its white houses and squares filled with blossoming orange trees. Not to be missed, the Parish Church, a national monument and a remarkable Manueline temple, and, outside the town, the Senhora do Bom Sucesso Chapel, a fine example of popular art.
A small village of white houses standing out from the wheat fields and cork oaks. The church and its two magnificent 16th century paintings on wood are well worth a visit.
THE CITY OF ALCACER DO SAL
The history of Alcacer do Sal begins with the castles of Moorish origin, while its beauty stems from the river Sado that surrounds it, in whose waters the town has been reflected for over five thousand years. The old medieva1 quarters and its age-polished sets lend antiquity to a town with its centuries-old streets that occasionally widen out into small squares. The houses, with their wrought-iron verandas, contribute to a general impression of lacework. The riverside avenue enchants those that stroll along it, and the view from the ancient fortress over the fenland is very restful. The castle is now home to dozens of storks that gaze haughtily over the flamingos and dolphins that are the masters of the estuary. The green of the rice fields and the storks perched on the bell-towers are characteristic images. The Municipal Archaeological Museum houses an important archaeological collection of articles from around the municipality. The items on display range from the Mesolithic period to Portuguese pottery of the 17th and 18th centuries. It has two nuclei: Nucleus 1 is to be found at the Pousada, while Nucleus 2 is located at the Epirito Santo Church.
Courtesy of Regiao de Turismo de Costa Azul.