The historical village of Marialva received the charter of the first king of Portugal, D. Afonso Henriques, and was once upon a time a busy military stronghold. Now a quiet place filled with memories, it is preserving the pace of a world in danger of extinction. The locals like to tell visitors that the village was given the name of a Moorish princess, named Maria Alva, desired by many but cursed by a witch who gave her goat feet. When her secret was discovered, the maiden threw herself off the castle tower. Meanwhile, historians date the foundation of the military warehouses back to the Aravos, a Lusitanian tribe that predates the Romans and Moors, long before the conquest of King Fernando the Great.
Stories aside, Marialva almost disappeared off the map in the second half of last century, due to desertification. Today, it is enjoying a new lease of life and has become a destination for those seeking respite from the hustle of bustle of the city. Start with the castle: the entrance is through the Guardian Angel Gate also known as St Michael’s Gate where a shrine to the Guardian Angel is clearly visible and the measures in force in the borough are on display because back then each municipality had its own metric system. Beyond this point is a real ghost town.
The nerve centre of the village is Largo do Pelourinho, a landmark built in the sixteenth century that is a testament to the autonomy of Marialva as a district and its geographical importance at the time. Nearby, you’ll also find the old town hall that also doubled up as a school (in the nineteenth century), the courthouse, the well tank and the churches of Our Lord (in the Mannerist style and with an outside pulpit) and Santiago, featuring a Manueline portal and gilded altarpieces. Despite being quite small, the castle donjon overlooks the citadel and the rocky eminence where Marialva was born, at 580 meters of altitude.