One of Vila Nova de Poiares‘ major annual events is Poiartes. As the name suggests, the predominant theme of the fair is arts and crafts so artisans from the municipality and other parts of central Portugal come here to show and sell the results of their skilled work. If you’re looking for a unique gift or souvenir from Portugal, this is a great place to browse.
Vila Nova de Poiares crafts
You’ll find local crafts such as the traditional black pottery that’s associated with chanfana, one of the town’s gastronomical claims to fame. Of course it has other uses beyond cooking goat casserole and the metallic sheen lends itself to decorative pieces, too.
Shaved wooden ornaments
Other ornamental objects are far more delicate and intricate. The tradition of shaving and carving willow and poplar wood to produce palm trees, crosses, boats and windmills has been around for a long time.
Basket-weaving is by no means unique to Poiares but that doesn’t mean it isn’t appreciated here. As well as baskets, local craftspeople make covers for wine flagons and other practical items.
The hills around Vila Nova de Poiares are almost rainbow-coloured with stone that ranges from burnt orange to deep burgundy and pale peach in colour. These rocks have been used in construction and to make millstones and there are still one or two stone masons in the area that specialise in working with this magnificent material. On my wish list!
Other Portuguese arts and crafts
Poiartes grows each year and attracts vendors from all over central Portugal and beyond so almost every conceivable medium is represented. You’ll find miniature schist cottages, stylish wool jackets, embroidery and tapestry, wooden crafts and furniture, home decor, jewellery and accessories and more besides.
Portuguese gastronomy at Poiartes
You can’t hold an event in Portugal without food, it just wouldn’t be right. So some of the stalls offer artisanal food and Portuguese drinks, such as delicious local sheep and goat cheese, sparkling wines, smoked and cured meats, honey, jams and of course, cakes such as pasteis de Tentúgal or the local Poiarito.
For proper meals or simple snacks and drinks, there are the tasquinhas. These are catering stalls operated by local organisations such as the fire brigade or clubs in a bid to raise funds.
This year, the Confraria da Chanfana will also have a tasquinha so you can try the traditional goat and red wine casserole here as a main meal or if you’re not sure you’ll like it, sample it in a chanfana roll. This would also be a good place to get the best Poiarito cakes. Be warned, they’re decidedly moreish.
Local business and organisations
Poiartes is about much more than creativity and food, especially now that the event has outgrown the main street in the town centre and now takes place on the recently built showground opposite Jardim das Palmeiras.
Now there is space for tractors, cars and even livestock, particularly goats. This means that more and more local businesses and associations can take advantage of the event to showcase their products and services. As a visitor, it’s an opportunity to get information and ask questions without having to track down individual premises. And to buy anything from tools to tupperware. Or a goat.
Another typical feature of an arts and crafts fair like Poiartes is an eclectic line up of bands and acts of varying levels of fame and talent. Headline acts for 2016 include well-known names like Richie Campbell and Fado ao Centro with plenty of DJs and other bands to fill a (late) evening with rhythms.
Earlier in the day, there is usually a series of performances by local schools and dance or musical groups as well as a traditional folk troupe.
Here’s the programme for 2016:
While you’re in the Vila Nova de Poiares area, you could also check out the river-fed swimming pool complex, Piscinas da Fraga, open until September 15th.
If you can’t make it to Poiartes, you’ll find the black pottery for sale at ADIP and other local shops and on the first Saturday of the month, the market hall is full of craft and second hand stalls offering their wares.
There are, of course, several other arts and craft fairs in Portugal if you’re not in central Portugal.