Portuguese pottery

With all the wonder of a tale from the Arabian Nights, Portugal’s long and chequered history is today still greatly evident from the many humble objects associated with the simple daily existence of the past.

The more rural the province, the more likely that you’ll see potters hunched over their wheels, women seated in doorways making lace of embroidering linens and men weaving straw into baskets or hammering copper into caldrons.

In many parts of Portugal (particularly in the north), oxen continue to bow their necks beneath yokes carved with pagan symbols and the high prows of many fishing boats in places like Aveiro (indicated on the Google map below) and Nazaré are turned up like those old Phoenician barques from many centuries ago.

More vestiges can be found in country stores where hampers and baskets hang on the walls and stoneware jars and glazed earthenware dishes line the shelves, while in an alcove you might find a hand-woven woollen rug, all of which recall the Moors who occupied Portugal for more than 400 years.

These are just a few of the facets of everyday life that reflect the evolving nature of the Portuguese people, whose simple, rustic, agricultural life has constantly been swayed by the varying fortunes of war, conquest and discovery.

The Portuguese share a love for ornaments; many of which are hand-crafted and, as such, naturally given to some form of symbolism. Even today, the benefits of modern progress are widely enjoyed without the cultural richness of the past being lost.

Wary of the worrying example of many other countries where aspects of their folklore have been allowed to fade, Portugal has been very careful to keep its popular art alive, with all its freshness and vigour largely intact.

Portugal’s History and Culture

Today’s travellers who visit Portugal always enjoy the prospect of stumbling upon a country fair where local artisans ply their wares such as handmade pots, dishes, wrought ironwork, embroideries, etc. which are sold in abundance and continually being improved in line with centuries-old concepts.

Thanks to this enlightened and impassioned creative effort, especially in the heart of the country’s hinterland, popular art in Portugal is as much alive today as it has ever been. 21st-century tourists continue to relish the opportunity to discover the Portuguese people through their old folk songs, costumes, festivities, legends, carvings, weavings, pottery and filigree.

Few visitors passing through Portugal’s old stone villages and hamlets on their travels can resist the hustle and bustle of a country fair or harvest festival, the brilliance of a procession in bright sunshine, the scent of woodsmoke rising from a cottage hearth, the rhythm of a country dance on the village square in front of the parish church or the picturesque sight of gaily-painted fishing boat.

Splendid and innumerable, most of the Portuguese festivals (the majority happening during the warm summer months) are primarily religious in character and are a real treat for people who happen to be passing through.

There you can see lovely local costumes, such as the red Minho skirts, the brown capes of the Trás-os-Montes mountain folk and the flowered shawls of the pretty girls from Estremadura.

Everywhere you will find the memory of the past kept very much alive in Portugal, a place that is traditional and somewhat old-fashioned at heart yet eager to keep developing and continue making ground-breaking progress.

As you travel around Portugal, take time to come off the motorway and follow that long, winding road partly overgrown with brambles where you might well see a donkey idly grazing in a field or a shepherd savouring their lunch in the shade of an old oak tree.

Need more sightseeing ideas for your next visit? Listen to the Portugal Travel Show, the podcast for people planning a trip to sunny Portugal…