Monsanto is located in the Beira Baixa Province of Portugal and the officially titled Historic Village was once fortified by the Knights Templar. Monsanto has claimed to be the most ancient settlement in Portugal, as there are traces of early stone age man from the ice age. Nowadays Monsanto revels in once being bestowed the accolade of being Portugal’s most Portuguese village, but what makes Monsanto so special?
There are amazing views of the surrounding countryside but the beauty of Monsanto lies in the fusion of natural granite and the man-made buildings of the village. The incredible huddle of atmospheric houses are part boulder and part man-made from the granite which the mountainside village rises from; ceilings, walls, floors all organically incorporate the massive exposed granite boulders. The streets are cut through the rock, one house is known as the ‘house with one tile’ a two hundred tonne boulder somehow acts as a complete roof! We had never seen a village like this, and the boys were amazed by the enormity of the granite boulders and wanted to climb and jump onto the gargantuan rocks.
We enjoyed a walk from the viewpoint laden with cannons up past the church, grotto, ancient pig pens and up to the castle. The castle itself was destroyed in the 19th Century after an unfortunate explosion in the ammunition depot, but the ruin still remains. As the June temperature exceeded forty degrees we kept the walk short, stayed as much in the shade as we could and enjoyed the spectacular views and magical buildings.