Forty-four kilometres north of Guarda, just off the N102, TRANCOSO is still largely contained within a circuit of medieval walls. It’s an uncommonly atmospheric little town, full of cobbled alleyways, well-kept gardens, shady squares and restored churches, all of which represent a tangible civic pride. It was here that Dom Dinis married the 12-year-old Isabel of Aragon in 1282, and later gave her the entire town as a gift; the wedding was solemnized in the small Capela de São Bartolomeu, by the side of the dusty avenue leading up to the town’s surviving main gate, the Portas d’el Rei, surmounted by the Trancoso coat of arms.
Within the walls on the north side of town is the castle, with its squat tower a distinctive silhouette visible from many kilometres away. The Moorish design is a reminder of the Saracen domination of the town in the tenth century, though the following two centuries saw frequent siege and battle, and Trancoso was also involved during fourteenth-century Castilian troublemaking and the nineteenth-century Peninsular War – on the central Largo Dr. Eduardo Cabral, look out for the charming corner house with an open stone stairway, tellingly known as the Quartel do General Beresforde (and used as Beresford’s HQ).
The presence of a large Jewish community during the Middle Ages is apparent from the facades of the town’s more ancient houses. Each has two doorways – a broad one for trade and a narrow one (leading to the first floor) for the family – and some have clumsy crosses, inscribed by the Inquisition to indicate the family’s conversion to Christianity. The most striking is the former rabbi’s house – known as the Casa do Gato Preto – which is decorated with the Lion of Judea; it’s on Largo Luis Albuquerque next to the restaurant São Marcos.