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.
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.
Our story and mission
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.
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.
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.