us as Maria leads us through the narrow lanes, visiting a Roman Jacuzzi, a palace and a cathedral rich in hand-painted tiles and an ornate gilded baroque altarpiece – ‘‘Brazilian gold,’’ says Maria grimly. ‘‘Enough to pay off our debts.’’
Then she takes us into a chapel that’s the essence of grimness. It’s lined and decorated with the skulls of 5000 poor people and uncountable bones, a lesson to the rich that we are all the same underneath, and finish up the same.
It’s a relief to go into the streets again. The students are still being paraded in their costumes, old men sit chatting around the marble fountain in the main square, tourists browse the souvenir stalls, a peahen fusses after her chicks beneath a statue of da Gama. Ahead of us is another dinner of pork and clams, almond pastries and pennyroyal liqueur. We’ve earned it.
Iberian grandeur, left: Perched on its granite outcrop, Marvao’s castle and walled town has views towards Spain. Colourful lanes, right: The old part of Castelo de Vide is criss-crossed by steep, narrow lanes full of flowers.
Gory history: The marble fountain in Evora’s main square, once the site for Inquisition executions, is an evening gathering place.
View from church: The huddled tile roofs of Castelo de Vide are dominated by the town’s outsized church, Santa Maria da Devesa.
Familiar sight: Ancient cork trees are a feature of the Alentejo countryside