The land where Quinta das Ratoeiras is located was once part of an important Roman farming estate called Villa Áulica, today known as the Roman Ruins of São Cucufate. This construction dates from the beginning of the first century, judging from the remains found during the archaeological excavations. After the fall of the Roman Empire, the place was occupied by Benedictine and Cistercian monks, and was transformed into a convent dedicated to the Spanish martyr St. Cucuphas (or St. Cugat). Quinta das Ratoeiras’ Wine & Rural Tourism is within walking distance and thus the closest tourist accommodation to this historic monument.
To hold the many and varied objects found during the archaeological excavations, a local museum was established in Vila de Frades, where the permanent exhibition «The Villa of São Cucufate» can be visited free of charge. Here to be viewed are testimonies to the daily lives of not only the villa’s Roman inhabitants, but also of the monks who occupied the building during the Middle Ages until the end of the 18th century.
Admiral Vasco da Gama, the great Portuguese navigator and explorer who discovered the maritime route to India in 1498, is one of the main characters in world and Portuguese history. He was born in Sines, a coastal town in the Alentejo region, but it was in Vidigueira that he settled in 1519, after being named Count of Vidigueira by King Manuel in recompense for his exploits.
It was in Vidigueira that the courageous navigator lived the happiest and most relaxed years of his life, until 1524 when he was named Viceroy of India. His death occurred that same year on Christmas Eve, in Cochin, while on duty. His body was brought back to Portugal and buried in Vidigueira. Almost three centuries later, his remains would make a final journey to the Jeronimos Monastery, a monument built in Lisbon with the profits from the spice commerce, made possible by his adventures.