I’m a cynic. I’ve travelled enough, and read enough about travels, to firmly doubt most things. Like my grandpa used to say: “Believe none of what you hear and only half of what you see.”
But I’ve seen the light.
That is, I’ve seen the rose-hued glow of an Alentejo sky and it really does have the “special quality” touted by the guidebooks.
Something about this region’s place on the globe no doubt…latitudes, longitudes…
Or maybe it’s magic.
The Alentejo is a magical part of Portugal. You’ll find walled medieval towns and cliff-hanging villages, which glow a brilliant white. In the shade of holm and cork oak trees, pigs snuffle for acorns. In spring, wild flowers carpet the ground. It feels uncrowded, undiscovered and a little bit lost in time.
Evora is the capital of the Alentejo. I’ve seen a lot of old heritage towns but Evora is something special. It’s a university town anchored by a Roman temple, studded with 17th-century mansions and surrounded by a medieval wall.
Buildings are white and fringed with borders of pastel-yellow. Orange trees provide shade in plazas and squares. The pace of life here is seductive. The food is delicious. And the cost of living is very low. It’s convenient and civilised, with a fish market, a fruit market, and free WiFi in public places.
You’ll find tourists here. The country’s most visited region, the Algarve, is only a few hours’ drive to the south. Evora’s historic centre is suffering what some call “the curse of UNESCO”. Being named a heritage site by this UN body means a property can be costly to renovate, update or modernise. That’s one reason you’ll find so many empty properties in the old town.
I found this fixer-upper in the Santo Antao district going for $250,000.
It’s 350 square metres, and inside you’ll find walls decorated with the hand-painted tiles the region is famous for.
If a labour of love doesn’t suit you, and you fancy something more turnkey, there’s a 78-square-metre, two-bedroom town home in the historic centre, going for $135,690. It’s just a three-minute walk from one of Evora’s most pleasant squares, the Praca do Giraldo.
Once used by the Inquisition for executions, this square is now the ideal place for a custard tart and a coffee.
If you want a bigger property, one in good order, then $342,700 is the asking price for a four-bedroom townhouse just outside the historic centre, close to the university. It’s 217 square metres.
Many foreign buyers prefer to get out into the villages of the Alentejo. You’ll find all sorts of fixer-uppers but also some stylish country homes.
To really spare no expense, just 15 minutes drive from Evora is a typical Alentejo farmhouse, with four bedrooms and three bathrooms. It has been totally modernised and sits on two acres, with a swimming pool and plenty of outbuildings. The asking price is $603,150 but…well…that’s the “asking” price.
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