Sitio – A different world altogether:
A short funicular ride up from Nazaré and we’re in Sítio, the old part of town that sits on the cliff-top. I’m really pleased that we’ve sacrificed the sardines and cakes in Nazaré to come up here as it’s a different world altogether. Being away from the sea, farming is a means of livelihood rather than fishing.
There are a couple of lookouts along the edge of the bluff from where the views of Nazaré’s golden beach and its harbour are really stunning. It’s also much quieter up here, with only a handful of tourists around, and the place has a totally different feel to Nazaré town down below. Although, looking at the craft and souvenir shops, I suspect tourist coaches do make their way up here.
At one o’clock a loud siren sounds off throughout the whole upper town. It sounds like the air-raid sirens that one hears from old war movies. Just to be sure that it isn’t an air-raid or some evacuation warning, I ask the young guy nearby if it’s a lunch call and he nodded affirmatively.
There are quite a few things to see up here in Sitio, including brightly dressed ladies in their short layered skirts, selling nuts and dried preserved fruits. As one went about setting up her stall, I manage to catch a glimpse of the multi-coloured petticoats.
Sightseeing Attractions in Sítio include:
- The stone memorial on the belvedere (“beautiful view”) honours Vasco da Gama, who stopped here before leaving Europe for India.
- The tiny chapel next to the monument sits on the spot where the statue of the Black Madonna hid in the rocks for 400 years, waiting for the Moors to go away and for the Christians to remember her.
- At the the cliff edge stands the small Ermida da Memoria. According to the legend, this is where the Virgin Mary saved a local dignatory Dom Fuas Roupinho and his horse from following a deer that leapt off the cliff in a sea mist in 1182. At the back of the memorial is a picture depicting the legend.
- The bandstand in the middle of the square is where all the town’s festivities begin. It isn’t too long after the siren sounding that the strong smell of sardines grilling wafts through the air. Suddenly our stomach reminds us that we’re hungry, but there’s no time to stop.
- Across the square we walk up the steps to the Nossa Senhora da Nazaré church with its twin Baroque belfries. There is an anonymous painting of the miraculous rescue, but it takes a bit of looking before we spot it on the way out.
All too soon it’s time to get back on the funicular down to Nazaré to join our coach. Although a bit rushed, we saw and learned a lot about Sitio.