Updated: Dec 16, 2020
*** This is an Open Article - new information and media may appear
according to no set schedule ***
My virtual travels around Central Portugal have recently taken me to Santarém - a town, a municipality, and a district. It's the municipality of Santarém and the surrounding area that has drawn my interest. What's not to love about this place? Intensely agricultural yet containing many towns and urban centers. Land that is generally flat but gently rolling. Not at high risk for wildfires (in my estimation). Easy access to the Tagus River. Tons of history going back to the Iron Age. About an hour to Lisbon and the coast. It all sounds like an ideal place to establish a homestead, and browsing through idealista confirms this at prices that are very good.
Check out the massive original - 11,284 x 5,447
Santarém Municipality. Click here to see this view using Google Earth.
Santarém, the town. Click here to see this view using Google Earth.
In the neighbourhood. Click here to see this view using Google Earth.
This is beautiful country, typical of this region. A gently undulating landscape traced with the outlines of fields, studded with trees, and punctuated with villages and towns. It has a very strong Middle Earth, Shire vibe for me. All the corners have been rubbed off long ago and you know that the people living there are doing a thing that has been going on for thousands of years.
I just had a quick look at the birds of Santarém, and it turns out there are many. Included are the Common Crane and both White and Black Storks. If I had to guess, these are Stork nests, probably used for many years. It says something about the locals that they are cool with having them on their telephone poles. Click on the image for that view.
The close proximity of Santarém municipality to Lisbon and the coast figures largely in its appeal. Most of the area is about an hour from the capital and the sea, making shopping and recreation options convenient and plentiful. Consider Praia da Foz do Arelho and Praia do Bom Sucesso, two beaches that border both the sea (wild) and Lagoa de Óbidos (calm). It's the best of both worlds on a coast that is known for undertows and rough waters.
Praça Sá da Bandeira, Santarém
Click here for this view.
Santarém Retail Park - Not to be overlooked is this massive retail development, a shopping mall on the warehouse scale. Located right next to the town of Santarém, this retail park is at most 45 minutes from the furthest reaches of the municipality. Easy access, free parking, lots of options and choices. Very handy.
"The population (of the municipality) in 2011 was 61,752, in an area of 552.54 km². The population of the city proper was 29,929 in 2012." Wiki
"October is the month when the National Gastronomy Festival is held, the main gastronomic fair in Portugal. These events are complemented by exhibitions of handicraft and folklore from all over the country. If possible, make sure to take the opportunity to watch the traditional dance of the Ribatejo region: the Fandango. This involves at least two men simulating a fight and symbolises the special skills of the cowherds who work in the nearby meadows."
"Its majestic position above the lush Alentejan plains, best appreciated from the Portas do Sol park, lends this town a quality beyond that of historical significance, and its role as centre of this important Portuguese agricultural area is as important today as ever. A 10-day agricultural fair, the Feira de Ribatejo, is held every June and gives the visitor the opportunity to see another side of this beautiful country. Produce is sold and exhibited, folk dancing and music abound and bullfights, for which this area is famous, and bull running through the streets set the scene for his traditional event. In October, another annual fair is held. This time the star of the show is the vast variety of locally-sourced gastronomic delights, the product of the surrounding fertile land."
As always, I highly recommend Weather Spark for information about weather and climate. So much data! The above graphic is a summary of some of the major data dimensions but there is a lot more there. The following chart is particularly useful, I think:
One thing this chart conveys very well that ones just showing temperature averages and extremes do not is the comfort dimension. There's a significant period of time when "sweltering" is a possibility, something that is true of much of Portugal but especially true of Central Portugal away from the sea. I follow two homesteading couples in the Castelo Branco region on YouTube (OKportugal and The Indie Projects), both well worth a watch), and their weekly videos give a great glimpse into the conditions there. Definitely a hot summer.
"Since prehistory, the region of Santarém has been inhabited, first by the Lusitani people and then by the Greeks, Romans, Visigoths, Moors and later Portuguese Christians. Of the various legends related to the foundation of Santarém, the most famous tells of the Visigoth Saint Iria (or Irene), who was martyred in Tomar (Nabantia) and whose uncorrupted body reached Santarém. In her honour, the name of the town (then known by its Latin name Scalabis) would later be changed to Sancta Irene, from which Santarém would eventually be derived.
The foundation of the city is attributed to the Romans, who occupied the region in the 2nd century BC and named the city Scalabis. During the Roman period Scalabis was an important commercial post in the mid-Tagus region and was the administrative capital of one of the regions (Conventus Scalabitanus) of Lusitania. Julius Caesar ordered the creation of a military camp in Santarém in 61 BC. The city takes at this time the designation of Scallabis Praesidium Iulium.
The 3rd century crisis and the decline of the Western Roman Empire affected the civitas and in the 5th century the town was conquered by Germanic tribes (Vandals and Alans). In 460, the Visigoths, led by Sunerico, conquered the city and expelled the Alans.
After the period of Visigoth domination, Santarém was taken in the 8th century by the Moors, who named it Shantarin. Under the rule of the Moors the city became an important cultural centre. Important Moor personalities born in Santarém include the poet and historian Ibn Bassam (died 1147) and the poet Ibn Sara (1043–1123).
The period of Moorish domination was finished in 1147 by the first King of Portugal, Afonso Henriques, who conquered the city on March 15. According to period chronicles, the King and a small army managed to take the city after some men climbed the walls during the night and opened the gates. The story of the conquest of Santarém is told in a heroic tone in the medieval chronicle De expugnatione Scalabis, which celebrates and justifies the power of the first Portuguese King. From a military point of view, the conquest of Santarém and, in that same year, of Lisbon were crucial steps in the Reconquista of Portugal."
"On 10 March 1147, King Afonso I of Portugal departed from Coimbra with 250 of his best knights intending to capture the Moorish city of Santarém, a goal that he had previously failed to achieve. The conquest of Santarém was of vital importance to Afonso's strategy; its possession would mean the end of the frequent Moorish attacks on Leiria and would also allow a future attack on Lisbon.
The plan now was to attack the city during the night under cover of darkness, in order to catch the Moorish garrison by surprise. King Afonso had previously sent the Portuguese Mem Ramires to Santarém disguised as a businessman, in order to secretly study the city for the conquest.
On the night of 14 March, King Afonso and his army arrived at Santarém and hid ladders in the fields. Before dawn the next morning, 25 knights scaled the walls, killed the Moorish sentries and forced their way to the gate, allowing the main Portuguese army to enter the city. Awakened by the screams of their sentries, the Moors ran from all sides to face the Portuguese attackers in the streets, offering very strong resistance, but ended up being defeated and slaughtered.
By morning the conquest was already complete and Santarém became part of the recently formed Kingdom of Portugal.
After the conquest of Santarém, Afonso I of Portugal turned his attention to the important Moorish city of Lisbon, which he would conquer in October with the help of a crusader fleet of the Second Crusade who stopped in Portugal while on course to the Holy Land."
One of my favourite things to do is use Google Earth as a tool to help understand the layout, landscape, and topography of a location, bouncing back and forth between satellite view and Street View. Santarém has been a great place to do this, yielding rich and satisfying results. The following screen grabs give a taste of what this area feels like on the ground.
One of the great things about this area, like a lot of parts of Portugal inland from the coast, is that property can be had quite inexpensively. As should be obvious by now, I love the idea of homesteading and I have a lot of respect for those that make a go of it, especially for those that live off-grid. When browsing through property listings on idealista, I tend to look for places that are liveable (i.e, not just a ruin), are not too isolated, offer privacy, and have enough land to make gardening and outdoor living possible (usually a minimum of one acre) at a price that is reasonable. What I have in mind is a couple or small family who says, "I want to live a more self-sufficient and simple life in a beautiful, bucolic setting that is close to amenities and recreation." There is no shortage of places that fit the bill here.
Check out this property I featured recently. 225,000 €,185 m² built/5,160 m² plot/207 m² main house (with deck)
A modestly sized 3 bedroom with a great setting, 1.3 acres, almost total privacy, storage and workspace, internet, relatively recent construction, energy efficient. A great set-up for someone who works from home, with the immense appeal of being move-in ready. The garage would make a great home office or work studio. Surrounded by fields with a great view of same, only one relatively nearby neighbour, and a smoothly sloping expanse of a backyard that is a blank canvas for landscaping and gardening. An ideal spot to ride out Global Calamity, dividing your time between growing vegetables and running your online t-shirt store. Put an above-ground pool out there and you're set.
Here's another one I wrote up. A lot more work to finish, but also a lot less expensive. 62,000 € - 4 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms - 208 m² built/2,360 m² plot.
Not much land, but more than enough room for gardening. The listing leaves us with a lot of unanswered questions, but the work that has been done on this place looks solid and the setting is hard to beat. Still lots of work to do, though. I just had a look and it is no longer listed on idealista. That's the advantage, though, of me doing these property write ups - a snapshot is preserved of a possibility, complete with photos and whatnot, even after the actual listing is removed.
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Many thanks to John Sean McGann (johnseanmcgann), now living in Limerick I believe. His wife is from Santarém, and they lived there for three years, returning regularly to see friends and family. John offered up some information and provided photos of the town:
"My sister in law worked in the government radio station during 25 de Abril. When the army, under Salgueiro Maia, were to leave Santarem "on manovers ", they were to play a certain song on the radio, and the army were to go to Lisbon and overthrow the government. The song is called " E depois do adeus ", and it was played at 10pm. The army went by the country roads to Lisbon. My sister in law rang my wife to tell her not to go to the streets until the army left. They were difficult times."
"Stone soup, or Sopa de Pedra comes from Almerim just north of Santarem. There are a few theories as to the name, but the one I find the most believable is...a monk went to visit someone, and brought a stone with him. He asked the woman to make a soup with the stone. She felt it was a poor soup for a monk, so she added some vegetables and chorizo. He ate all the soup, and before leaving, asked the woman if he could take the stone with him. The woman then realized that the stone was the monks subtle way of getting a nice soup !!! This is the version I like."