Rotas Compadres showcase Alentejo through its cultural heritage, from cork tree fields to the marble industry, from the abundance of frescoes in churches and chapels to the local cuisine. We show you what you can't reach, the unknown, and we explain why things are done the way they are since remote times. I’m Catarina Valença Gonçalves, an Art Historian and the person responsible for Rotas Compadres. On these routes, you'll be guided by me, my team, and the local community, truly experts in each side of Alentejo's culture.

ALENTEJO: A LAND OF KINDNESS

As a Lisbon city girl, I was always amazed when I heard the ladies who worked in the houses where I spent time talking about "going to the homeland" in the Easter, summer holidays in August, and for Christmas. I was drawn to their joy and excitement, longing to reach "that homeland", always distant, not knowing what it meant or what made these people return every time.

I had always been surrounded by books and arts, so I chose to major in Art History instead of Law, mostly because of paintings and because Law felt like a negative, kindness field of studies. We talked about frescoes in the first year of school. Frescoes live on where they were created originally, through years and centuries, witnessing different communities and people, and different ways of being appreciated.

Shortly after, I discovered Alentejo, a land with which I had no personal connection but has the largest collection of frescoes in Portugal. The region is abundant in unique heritage, has a landscape that enables the contact between different people, and, above all, has a lifestyle that I call kind.

Alvito, where it all began, became "my homeland".  The first cultural tourism route I designed was Rota do Fresco (Fresco Route), which includes 15 municipalities and all the frescoes scattered across different churches in the region. Then, I started Spira, an agency for heritage revitalisation, and created three more routes: Mármore, Montado, and Rota Pica-couriços. We added several Mãos-na-Massa Workshops and gathered all different experiences under the umbrella brand Compadres. It's been 20 years. Today we include over 21 municipalities, over 100 resources, 10154 square kilometres, 1/3 of Alentejo, 4 Routes, 10 Mãos-na-Massa Workshops, experiences in 5 different languages, working 365 days a year.

All our experiences at Rota Compadres are for tour operators, groups of friends, and smaller groups with two people minimum. 

ALENTEJO: A LAND OF KINDNESS

As a Lisbon city girl, I was always amazed when I heard the ladies who worked in the houses where I spent time talking about "going to the homeland" in the Easter, summer holidays in August, and for Christmas. I was drawn to their joy and excitement, longing to reach "that homeland", always distant, not knowing what it meant or what made these people return every time.

I had always been surrounded by books and arts, so I chose to major in Art History instead of Law, mostly because of paintings and because Law felt like a negative, kindness field of studies. We talked about frescoes in the first year of school. Frescoes live on where they were created originally, through years and centuries, witnessing different communities and people, and different ways of being appreciated.

Shortly after, I discovered Alentejo, a land with which I had no personal connection but has the largest collection of frescoes in Portugal. The region is abundant in unique heritage, has a landscape that enables the contact between different people, and, above all, has a lifestyle that I call kind.

Alvito, where it all began, became "my homeland".  The first cultural tourism route I designed was Rota do Fresco (Fresco Route), which includes 15 municipalities and all the frescoes scattered across different churches in the region. Then, I started Spira, an agency for heritage revitalisation, and created three more routes: Mármore, Montado, and Rota Pica-couriços. We added several Mãos-na-Massa Workshops and gathered all different experiences under the umbrella brand Compadres. It's been 20 years. Today we include over 21 municipalities, over 100 resources, 10154 square kilometres, 1/3 of Alentejo, 4 Routes, 10 Mãos-na-Massa Workshops, experiences in 5 different languages, working 365 days a year.

All our experiences at Rota Compadres are for tour operators, groups of friends, and smaller groups with two people minimum. 

"They say everything takes longer here. That everything is quiet. That everything is slow. We say we're on the right side of life, doing things at the right pace. It's 300 days of sunshine a year and silence here doesn't bother us."
Catarina Valença Gonçalves

The Rota do Fresco (Fresco Route) that started Rotas Compadres is the first cultural tourism route in Portugal and, to date, the largest, covering 15 municipalities in Alentejo.

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Our story and mission

From knowing that Alentejo has the country's largest number of frescoes to designing a cultural tourism route was easy. It was motivated by the need and wish to share. We enjoy and have the responsibility to share knowledge that we're privileged to have, knowledge everyone can have, too, with the right mediators. That's what the Rotas are: the ability to access cultural heritage, both physically and intellectually, in a fun way and always with a heritage interpreter. All of the Alentejo's heritage for all. 

Today we include over 21 municipalities, over 100 resources, 10154 square kilometres, 1/3 of Alentejo, 4 Routes, 10 Mãos-na-Massa Workshops, experiences in 5 different languages, working 365 days a year. All our experiences at Rota Compadres are for tour operators, groups of friends, and smaller groups with two people minimum. 


Things to do
Rotas Compadres

Know the “B side” of cultural heritage

From Estremoz to Alvito, and Évora, Vidigueira, Serpa, Viana do Alentejo or Montemor-o-Novo, Rotas Compadres wants to show heritage from a different angle that often goes unnoticed. Architecture, Industry, History, knowledge, and flavours are some of the references that mark the path of these routes.

Thing to do
Baixo Alentejo
Alvito Frescoes Route
I propose we immerse ourselves in an Alentejo land that’s still 100% rural, just 35 minutes from Évora. It’s the third smallest...
from € 25.00
Thing to do
Baixo Alentejo
Vanished Évora Tour
If you’ve ever wondered how the cities evolved in the multiple changes of the Portuguese 19th century, forced to adjust to...
from € 15.00
Thing to do
Baixo Alentejo
Baroque Évora Frescoes Tour
Be part of the reinvention of the forgotten or hidden heritage of the city that’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site, unveiling the...
from € 25.00
Thing to do
Baixo Alentejo
Marble Tones Route
We will enter the world of Alentejo’s white gold, in the lands of Vila Viçosa and Borba. We will start at two quarries that are...
from € 20.00

New routes

"We started having more foreign tourists travelling independently in recent years. For them, we created a tour operator called Portugal Heritage Tours. The packages are 5 to 8 days and include the traditional Rotas Compadres to which we added a cultural route at Costa Vicentina."
Catarina Valença Gonçalves
Rotas Compadres

Location

South

Baixo Alentejo

Know the region

I’ve always felt welcomed here. I say it many times: to me, Alentejo is a land of kindness where being with people and talking to them is easy and enjoyable. Furthermore, the landscape feeds the constant “good vibe” atmosphere - not only it changes throughout the day, but there are certain scents and sounds that contribute to that. It’s like seeing a live painting every time we drive around a corner or go for a walk. In addition to all that, there’s the bread that lasts for one week… It’s a whole group of details that make living enjoyable. If you add to this my expertise in frescoes and Art History, then this place is like heaven.


I recommend visiting the main church in Vila Nova da Baronia. In addition to the gilded carvings and tile panels, there’s an interesting set of frescoes painted by José de Escobar in 1603.


The DNA of people living here reinforces the attractiveness of Alentejo because people look for authentic human connections. I moved to Vila Nova da Baronia but travel to Lisbon frequently. There are four trains a day, and people know each other: the train employee checking onboard tickets calls me by my name. It’s this human environment, proximity, and easy-going that makes me want to spend more time here. 

There are several festivities and celebrations in the area, like Festa dos Santos (celebrating the harvest of nuts) and Festa do Barão, both in Alvito, or Feira de Vila Nova, a fair that takes place in Vila Nova da Baronia on the third Sunday of July.

First-hand news

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