If you’re walking your way across Alentejo on our Inn to Inn, by the time you get to Évora, you’ve probably earned a half-time pit stop in what is a lovely, compact city to take the load off and take it easy. If you’re driving, then it’s still a lovely, compact city to wander around and relax in.
Raised by the Romans, conquered by the Moors and transformed it into a centre of learning and culture by the Christians, Évora is something of an open-air museum. Its stunning collection of buildings that span every one of those ages is a testament to both its historical importance and local efforts to conserve this cultural heritage for us to knit the city’s story back together.
That it is a UNESCO World Heritage site should surprise precisely no-one.
The fruits of this most prolific time period still stand in the Old City, from the remarkably preserved 16th century patrician houses to a splendid Romanesque/Gothic cathedral and a two-millennia old Roman temple. Most impressively, an enormous 16th Century aqueduct has been seamlessly and brilliantly incorporated into the city’s design.
But of all of Évora’s party pieces, undoubtedly the most vivid, bordering on surreal, is the Capela dos Ossos - the ‘Chapel of Bones’.
This little chapel is lined with bones and skulls of about 5,000 souls, and is somehow quite peaceful and moving, if (unsurprisingly) a little sombre, being dedicated to the futility of life and such. But there’s something rather uplifting, or better yet let’s call it inspiring, about a little poem on display which invites visitors to stop rushing and running around, calm down, slow your pace and enjoy life while you can...
And so that’s what we come here to do. With all this history converging, with the university students buzzing around, with a steady flow of curious visitors, Évora still somehow feels like a quiet town where you can go for a relaxed stroll through its white streets and sit down in a shady square to savour a drink and bask in its lovely weather.