Sertã, a picturesque town nestled in the heart of the Castelo Branco region in Central Portugal, is a testament to the region’s rich tapestry of history, natural beauty, and culinary heritage. Lying on the banks of the rivers Zezere and Ródão, its landscape is characterised by dense green forests, shimmering rivers, and tranquil lakes. The serenity that emanates from its natural surroundings makes Sertã an idyllic retreat for those seeking to escape the hustle and bustle of urban life.
The town’s history is evident in its well-preserved architecture, with medieval bridges, ancient churches, and historic manors recounting tales from eras gone by. In the annals of Sertã’s history, a captivating legend prevails, linking the town’s name to a tale of valor and love. As the story goes, following the demise of a Lusitanian nobleman in combat against the Romans, his courageous wife took a decisive stand. Armed with a “sertã” (a frying pan), she hurled scorching oil from the castle’s battlements onto the invading Romans, forcing their retreat and forever etching this act of defiance into the town’s legacy.
This very castle, with roots tracing back to Roman establishment, has been a silent witness to countless changing hands. Initially under the stewardship of the Order of the Templars, it later transitioned to various religious and martial orders, including the Hospitallers, the Order of Malta, and the Order of Crato. Their collective influence played a pivotal role in shaping the regional settlement. Today, while the castle showcases remnants of its grand past, it remains a vantage point for breathtaking views of Sertã. A visit is incomplete without stepping into the 15th-century Parish Church, where the intricacies of baroque woodwork complement the historic allure of the 16th and 17th-century tiles.
What to See & Do
Ponte da Carvalha
Sertã’s Old Bridge stands as a timeless testament to the town’s architectural heritage and its significant role in connecting regions and facilitating trade. Arching gracefully over the serene waters of the River Zêzere, this ancient structure, referred to locally as “Ponte Filipina” or “Ponte da Carvalha,” dates back to the reign of King Philip II of Spain. The stone masonry, with its enduring craftsmanship, reveals a blend of Romanesque and medieval influences. Walking across the bridge is akin to taking a step back in time, allowing visitors to imagine the countless stories and historical moments that this bridge has silently witnessed over the centuries. Nestled amidst lush greenery, the Old Bridge also provides a picturesque setting, making it a favoured spot for photographers and history enthusiasts alike.
Vale da Ribeira da Serta
The Vale da Ribeira da Sertã, just a stone’s throw away from Sertã, is an enchanting oasis of natural beauty that beckons visitors with its serene landscapes and untamed wilderness. The valley, carved by the gentle meanderings of the Ribeira da Sertã river, showcases a mosaic of dense woodlands, verdant pastures, and shimmering water bodies. The sounds of the river, coupled with the melodies of native birds, provide a tranquil soundtrack for those who decide to hike in this pristine haven. As you journey through the valley, you’re embraced by the refreshing aroma of wildflowers and the cool shade of overarching trees.
What to Eat
In the heart of Sertã, the culinary scene stands out, reflecting the town’s rich cultural heritage and agrarian traditions. At the forefront of its gastronomic offerings is the renowned maranhos, a delicacy that showcases the art of local cooking. This dish features sheep’s innards meticulously cooked with rice, chicken, and a medley of aromatic spices, creating a flavourful fusion that’s both hearty and satisfying. Another traditional dish not to be missed is the bucho recheado, which translates to stuffed pork stomach. This dish, reminiscent of family gatherings and festive occasions, is packed with a filling of savoury meat and spices, offering a taste of the town’s rustic charm.
When it comes to satisfying a sweet tooth, Sertã doesn’t fall short. Cartuchos de amêndoa, or almond cornets, are a delightful confectionery treat. Crafted from crispy pastry enveloping a sweet almond filling, they are a testament to the region’s penchant for almond-based desserts. Equally indulgent are the merendas doces, which translate to sweet buns. These soft, fluffy pastries, often laced with a hint of citrus or cinnamon, are perfect for breakfast or an afternoon treat. Altogether, Sertã’s culinary landscape invites visitors to embark on a gastronomic journey, capturing the essence of traditional Portuguese flavours and techniques.