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Alter do Chão

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This pleasant little town of the Higher Alentejo was founded by the Romans under the name of Elteri (or Eltori) and later destroyed by order of Emperor Hadrian after the inhabitants rebelled against him.

There are many Roman vestiges around the town, which is dominated by the castle, with five towers and a Gothic portal, built in 1359. Its austere aspect contrasts with the market square, the Largo Doze Melhores de Alter, lying at its feet and filled with flowers.

The town has some fine houses from the 17th and 18th centuries (such as the graceful Palácio do Álamo, which now houses the Tourist Office, an art gallery and a library), and its streets reflect the calm life of a population almost entirely devoted to agriculture.

But Alter is best known for Coudelaria (stud-farm), founded in 1748 to breed Lusitanian horses for the royal family. Attractive stables, painted in the royal livery of white and ochre, are surrounded by 300 hectares of grounds where the famous Portuguese breed Alter Real can still be admired.

Coudelaria de Alter prospered until the Peninsular Wars (1807-15) and then suffered a long period of decline; years of dedication have revived it and the Portuguese School of Equestrian Art is there to demonstrate the positive results.

The county has a rich and varied gastronomy which includes the typical haggis (sarapatel) and a delicious ensopado de borrego com arroz amarelo (a rich stew of young lamb served with «yellow» rice).

Crafts include fine works in leather, cork, wood and brass.

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