Amazing Places

The Homes in Monsanto, Portugal Are Sandwiched Between Giant Boulders

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When you're starting a new town, it's important to scope out the landscape first. You know, map out where all the fertile farmland is nearby, and make sure the place that you're actually going to build the houses isn't dominated by giant boulders that can't possibly be moved. Or you could do what Monsanto, Portugal did, and just build your town into the boulders themselves.

Set in Stone

Two things stand out as you approach Monsanto from a distance: the bright brick-red roofs and the massive round boulders. This quaint little town makes the most of its surroundings by incorporating the mountain's many granite boulders into its design. The rocks line the narrow passages and alleyways, and sometimes crowd people's front doors. There are even a few houses literally built into hollowed out boulders — what looks like an ordinary stone from a distance reveals a bright doorway up close.

The landscape isn't the only thing that sets Monsanto apart. Although there have been people living in the area since at least the early Stone Age and through Roman times, much of the city's modern identity can be traced back to the creation of the Knights Templar castle overlooking the town. Built after the knightly order had defeated the dominant Muslim presence in the 12th century, the castle bears a strong resemblance to the rest of the city. You might have to peer pretty closely at those gray stones before you realize you're actually looking at a medieval fortification.

The Most Portuguese Portuguese City

Today, Monsanto is a popular destination for visitors to Portugal, and not just because of its unique architecture. It was named the "Most Portuguese City in Portugal" in 1938 after a nationwide poll, likely because of the city's deep history and robust culinary tradition. If you do get a chance to make it out to the city, make sure you tear yourself away from the stirring vistas for at least long enough to try the octopus with olive oil.

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Written by Reuben Westmaas March 19, 2018