Discover the Vibrant and Timeless Art of Alentejo Pottery: A Feast for Your Eyes and Soul!

Discover the Vibrant and Timeless Art of Alentejo Pottery: A Feast for Your Eyes and Soul!

The history of pottery-making in the Alentejo region of southern Portugal dates back to ancient times. Archaeological evidence suggests that pottery was already being produced in the area during the Neolithic period, around 5,000 years ago.
So of all the visits on our Alentejo bike tour, one of the most special is the pottery village of São Pedro do Corval. With a ceramics tradition dating back centuries, and family businesses just as old, its a delight to see that potters wheels are still spinning in the 21st century.

A brief History of Alentejo Pottery

Despite the Roman origins of the trade of spun pottery in Iberia, traditional Portuguese pottery was influenced heavily by trade with China, dating back to the voyages of Vasco da Gama and perhaps even earlier.

With the Moorish occupation of the Iberian Peninsula, motifs of plants, vegetables and geometry of the Islamic culture became popular and remain so to this day.

Alentejo pottery plates lined up in a store

The Phoenicians and Romans also had a significant influence on the development of pottery in the region. In the Middle Ages, the Moors brought their own unique styles and techniques to the region, further enriching the art of pottery-making.

Over time, pottery became an important industry in the Alentejo, with many villages and towns specializing in the craft. Today, Alentejo pottery is celebrated for its unique style and exceptional quality, and it continues to be an essential part of the region's cultural heritage.

Centuries on, Alentejo pottery is still renowned for its unique style and exceptional quality.

What makes Alentejo Pottery Unique?

Local clay

The clay used in Alentejo pottery is sourced from the region's abundant deposits, and the pottery is typically crafted by hand on a potter's wheel. The pieces are then decorated with intricate designs that reflect the region's rich cultural heritage.

Vibrant colours

One of the distinguishing features of Alentejo pottery is the use of vibrant colors. The pottery is often adorned with bold blues, greens, yellows, and reds, giving each piece a lively and festive appearance.

Distinctive shapes

The shapes of the pottery also reflect the region's history and traditions. You can find large platters with intricate designs that are perfect for serving meals, as well as smaller pieces like bowls and cups that are ideal for daily use.

Beautiful and Functional

Alentejo pottery is not only beautiful but also functional, and although much of the pottery sold these days is mostly decorative, the majority are excellent for serving up hot or cold food and adding a wonderful splash of color to any table setting. The clay used in these pieces is durable and able to withstand high temperatures, making them ideal for cooking and serving hot dishes. 

Where to Buy Alentejo Pottery

If you're interested in purchasing Alentejo pottery, you'll find many artisans selling their wares in the region's markets and shops in all the major towns: Évora, Estremos, Borba, Vila Viçosa.

Often, you'll find workshops in clusters of traditional ateliers that have been operating for generations. A famous stop, on the way to the hilltop village of Monsaraz, is São Pedro do Corval, where we stop to understand the variety and origins of traditional Alentejo pottery.

Here, you can also take a pottery class to learn more about this ancient craft and even try your hand at making your own piece!

The vibrant colors, intricate designs, and functional nature of this pottery make it a must-have souvenir for anyone interested in adding a touch of the Alentejo's unique charm to their home - and the small pieces make great stocking stuffers for Christmas. Pick them up on our delightful Alentejo Bike Tour!

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