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Freixo de Espada à Cinta

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The southernmost town in Trás-os-Montes is FREIXO DE ESPADA À CINTA, around 40km southeast of Torre de Moncorvo. The mouthful of a name translates as “ash-tree of the sword of the belt” and supposedly refers to Dom Dinis hacking at a nearby tree as he announced the founding of the town. Hidden in the folds of the undulating Douro mountains, the town was once considered so remote that prisoners who had been granted an amnesty were allowed to settle here in obscurity. It doesn’t feel quite so isolated any more, with a new town straddling one side of the main through-road (N221), and a small, surviving old town on the other, dominated by a surprisingly grand Igreja Matriz with a retábulo of paintings attributed to Viseu artist Grão Vasco. There’s also a mighty keep, which affords great views from its bell tower, while beneath lies the town’s spectacularly sited cemetery. Follow the signs (“praia fluvial”) 4km east out of town, down a series of hairpin bends on the banks of the Rio Douro, and you’ll end up at the local river beach and swimming spot.

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