Slow & Still: A Day in the Alentejo
Meet Silvestre, Madrid & Beyond collaborator in the Alentejo. Silvestre was born and raised in Alentejo, the vast swathe of land that lies south-east of Lisbon in Portugal. He has always lived in the countryside, surrounded by nature, and is passionate about the region. Over his 37 years, Silvestre has served in the military and as a lifeguard, and worked as a farmer, fisherman, and cork producer. In 2016, with a desire to share the best of the Alentejo with travelers and through the eyes of a local, he took the leap to become a tour guide and started to work with Madrid & Beyond. Some of the experiences Silvestre offers include a 4x4 tour through the countryside taking in historic farms and cork forests and meeting local shepherds and olive oil producers.
Being able to meet different people from different cultures is one of the factors that makes me love what I do.
How did you become a guide?
“I was born and raised in Alentejo and I have always lived in the countryside surrounded by nature. It made me grow a unique passion for everything around me, always wanting to know more and more about “our Alentejo”. It’s a very strong feeling that surprises me every day. After several jobs in different fields, I always had the ambition to know more, to know the different areas, new adventures, and people of my land. All of this made me wonder if there was a change of putting it all together. So, in 2016 I decided to become a tourist guide to show the best that exists in Alentejo through the eyes of a local.”
What advice can you give for travelers thinking of visiting the region?
“I think that travelers are fascinated by the history, culture, and quality that we gather, although the Alentejo already has some tourism, we still have so much of it still untouched. Not to mention our wonderful cuisine and wines! A tip for travelers: don’t just come for a day or two. There are always places that will make you want to stop and relax and enjoy the calmness that the Alentejo has. It is said that the Alentejo has two speeds: slow and still! City tours can be done with pre-planned times and itineraries, but here everything is taken with ease and calm, there is no place for rushing or stressing! There is no specific time in my opinion that I can consider the best to get to know the Alentejo, but if you want to get to know the countryside and do lots of activities like hiking, I would avoid the summer months when the heat can be uncomfortable.”
Alentejo has two speeds: slow and still! Here everything is taken with ease and calm, there is no place for rushing or stressing!
My favorite drink is a good red wine. It goes very well with octopus, especially from the Alentejo coast, with some vegetables on the side and cooked in the oven. It’s a great delicacy!
Talk us through your perfect day in the Alentejo...
“One of my favorite tours would start with me picking you up at your hotel in my 4×4. While I always have a route planned, I like to take a few minutes to get to know my clients and define the details together. We start by making our way towards the countryside, stopping in charming small villages along the way. I’m always happy to show people where I grew up and live! As soon as possible we go off road along dirt tracks, stopping at points of interest and viewpoints. We pass through historic farms and cork oak fields. If we’re lucky, we will see a man at work, pulling the cork off the trees. I like to show people how to extract the cork too – it’s harder than it looks! Along the way, we also meet shepherds with their sheep and other charismatic people of the area.”
The perfect Saturday will be to go out early in the morning by jeep with a canoe and picnic and go on an expedition in a river or lagoon, take some good pictures.
“Later, we’ll visit a historic olive press to see first-hand how olive oil is processed in the same way it was done in ancient times. This stop would not be complete without a delicious oil tasting! Once we have worked up an appetite, we head towards the Alentejo coast, more specifically to Lagoa de Santo André in the middle of a natural reserve where we will have the fabulous Atlantic Ocean as our backdrop. Here, we can enjoy a delicious gourmet picnic made with the freshest local products, including if you’re up for it – some wild partridge! After lunch… I like to share my favorite beaches on the coast. And to end the day on a high note, on the way back to the hotel, we will stop at a gin and rum distillery in the middle of a cork oak forest, where they only use local ingredients to infuse the liqueurs! After this long day you might sleep in the back of the jeep as I drive you back to your hotel!”