We suggest you arrive in Monterrei Valley – on the shores of the River Támega – early in the afternoon. We are in the southeastern part of the province of Ourense, near Portugal.
After leaving our bags at the hotel, we’ll begin this wine tourism adventure exploring the beautiful towns in the valley. The parish of Vilaza, in the municipality of Monterrei, is an excellent starting point due to its proximity to the road connecting to the Rías Baixas Motorway (A-52), which gives the town excellent accessibility without disturbing its tranquil lifestyle.
The town retains the architecture of its traditional pazos. Some are used for rural tourism, such as the Pazo de Espada (formerly known as Pazo Blanco-Raxoi), which is accessible only to guests, who can enjoy a well-stocked wine cellar filled with Monterrei Designation of Origin wines. Opposite is the so-called Pazo de Limia; its entrance gate is crowned by a sundial and its main façade features a glassed-in gallery and a characteristic coat-of-arms carved in stone surrounded by baroque decoration.
One of Vilaza’s main peculiarities is its baroque Church of San Salvador. Attached to it is a large tower of older construction called the “Tower of the Templars”.
Vilaza is constantly under the impetuous gaze of the mediaeval fortress of Monterrei, – the icon of the region, the municipality, the valley and the label of its designation of origin. Its majestic presence exerts a pervasive influence on this land bordering Portugal, whose frontier it has been watching over for 800 years. We’ll use the afternoon to visit this acropolis, the largest in Galicia for many authors.
Arriving from Vilaza to the N-525, we’ll turn left towards Ourense until reaching a turnoff to the right that indicates the Parador de Verín state-owned hotel. From the hotel’s grounds at the foot of the castle, we’ll walk up the hill. This is the best way to take a look at the triple wall and its buildings, built between the twelfth and seventeenth centuries. Firstly, we find the Pilgrims’ Hospital, founded in the fifteenth century. Let’s not forget that this region is the gateway to Galicia from the Plateau and Portugal and an essential reference along the Vía da Prata (the Southeast Way) to Santiago de Compostela.
Next, we’ll walk the streets of the town until we reach the last gate, which we cross through in order to reach the inner ward. From here, we access the Keep, an impressive mass of stone 22 metres high. From it, you can oversee much of the River Támega’s basin, a valley dotted with vineyards, orchards, small villages and a large town, like Verín. You will also find the Ladies’ Tower, smaller and perfectly nestled in the Pazo dos Condes, a Renaissance building with an ornate arch supported by columns. The Church of Santa María completes the complex; on one of its façades is a Christ surrounded by anthropomorphic and mythological figures which will amaze you.
In these surroundings which transport us to another time, it’s not hard for us to imagine the legends surrounding the place that tell of the unfaithful countess who – fearing the wrath of her husband – falls from the tower to the inner ward, known the “green pit”, 14 metres deep.
Although the area outside of the fort is open, if we are interested in accessing the interior of the keep, the Pazo dos Condes and the church, visiting hours are daily from 10:00 am to 7:00 pm.
After the visit, we can dine in Verín, accompanying the Monterrei DO wines with á feira-style octopus or codfish. The traditional Galician stew (cocido) and all of the products related to the pig slaughter – such as androlla or cachucha – are also a good option. These delicacies are linked to the Entroido (Carnival), here declared an official National Tourist Event, since they are enjoyed with increased delight this time of year.
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