Visit to Ponte de Lima, Portugal, (Day Five)
The heart of Portugal’s enchanting landscapes, on the banks of the peaceful Lima River, holds the medieval jewel of Ponte de Lima, where time seems to stop between the ancient walls and the echoes of history whisper through its cobbled streets and centuries-old buildings.
Ponte de Lima is the oldest town in Portugal, and its foundation dates to 1125, but its history is as old as humanity itself. Traces of Iron Age settlements lie among the nearby hills, dating back to ancient times.
The Romans constructed the iconic stone bridge in the 1st century to connect the northern and southern provinces via the Via XIX of Antoninus. This route continued to be used in medieval times, and currently, part of it coincides with the pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela.
The city transformed into a military fortification in the Middle Ages by constructing walls, towers, and well-preserved gates.
On the side of the Lima River is the sculpture of a regiment of Roman soldiers who refused to cross the river. According to legend, upon reaching the shore, the soldiers mistook it for the legendary Lethe River, known for its beauty and as one of the five rivers of the underworld. In Greek mythology, Dionysus instructed Orpheus that to find the kingdom of Hades, he had to cross Lethe, also known as the river of oblivion, where the souls of the dead drank from its waters to forget their earthly existence.
That day the soldiers refused to cross the river because they assumed that those who drank or came into contact with its waters would lose their memories forever. Their captain had to swim across it and call them one by one by their name to assure them that he had not lost his memory.
River of oblivion Commanded by Decius Junius.Brutus, the Roman armies reached the left bank of Lima in the year 135 BC. The beauty of the place made them ponder in front of the legendary Lethe River that erased all the memories of anyone who crossed it. The soldiers refused to cross. Then the commander crossed it and from the other bank called each soldier by his name. Thus he showed them that it was not the River of Oblivion.
A trip to the past
Despite being still far from our final destination, we decided to take the morning off to explore Ponte de Lima.
Walking through the narrow alleys, I was transported back in time. The air carried the scent of flowers, and I could hear the river’s soft murmur, creating the city’s timeless charm. The moss-covered stone walls stood as guardians, with secret stories etched between their nooks and cracks.
The city’s historic center is a maze of narrow alleys and squares that invites you to explore each corner. In the center is Praça de Camões, with its elegant fountain, the traditional meeting place for locals and visitors alike.
One of the oldest buildings is the Torre da Cadeia Velha, an ancient fortress with few windows used as a women’s prison. It gave me chills thinking about the sad stories that its thick stone walls keep.
Alameda dos Plátanos
One of the most beautiful places in the city is the Alameda dos Plátanos (Platanus orientalis L. var. acerifolia Aiton). The large centennial trees were planted along the roads to offer shade to travelers.
In Ponte de Lima, we enjoy not only the beauty of the city but also its gastronomy. We found the famous Portuguese cuisine, which I will dedicate a special chapter to. Remember to subscribe to my newsletter and read the previous chapters and the ones to come.